Oct 5, 2023; Landover, Maryland, USA; Chicago Bears defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (91) reacts after the game against the Washington Commanders at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
LAKE FOREST — Just when things were heading in a positive direction for the Chicago Bears, the team has taken a big hit.
Yannick Ngakoue’s season has come to an end due to a broken ankle he suffered in Sunday’s 28-13 victory over the Lions at Soldier Field.
Bears coach Matt Eberflus announced the news at his Wednesday press conference.
“Just wanted to compliment him on him being a true pro all the way through,” Eberflus said. “Really helped our young guys the entire year and just want really credit him for that and really appreciate him being a great teammate.”
Ngakou’s last snap occurred with 7:45 left in the fourth quarter. Lions running back David Montgomery ran for an 11-yard gain up the middle, and Bears linebacker Tremaine Edmunds fell on Ngakou’s left ankle.
Ngakoue played in all 13 games so far this season and finished with 22 total tackles and four sacks. According to Pro Football Focus, Ngakoue accumulated 34 total pressures — tied for the most on the team with DeMarcus Walker.
Ngakoue got the first sack of the game against Detroit last Sunday by using a bullrush move to overpower the Lions’ left tackle.
Even though Ngakoue hasn’t been as productive in generating sacks with the Bears, opposing teams still had to respect what he was capable of doing. Losing a player with 69 career sacks should allow opponents to put more of their focus on Sweat.
That means other players will have to step up in his place.
“Yeah, that’s really a great opportunity for some other guys,” Eberflus said. “And we’ve been rotating a lot of guys in there, as you guys know. For me, it’s about finding that best combination, you know, and really it’s about the matchups. When you look at the skill set of the offensive line that we’re playing this week and how we can match up best against those guys and who that is going against who. So, that’s important.”
Eberflus mentioned that everyone from Dominique Robinson, DeMarcus Walker, Gervon Dexter Sr. and Zacch Pickens will have an uptick in reps.
Here is where Bears’ defensive linemen have lined up this season, according to PFF.
Ngakoue has played 590 total defensive snaps (with 414 at the “REO” d-line position)
Montez Sweat has played 587 total defensive snaps (210 have been with the Bears). He has lined up at the “LEO” position 478 times and 166 of those have been with Chicago. He’s only been at the REO position 51 times (with 31 occuring with the Bears.)
Walker has played 530 total defensive snaps. His top three most played snaps per position have been LEO with 182, REO with 141, and RE for 106.
(REO or LEO is when you have a down lineman lined up outside of the offensive tackle.)
The Bears have been more willing to play Sweat on the right side compared to the Commanders, but Walker should see an increased snap count at the end position that is now vacated.
“Just staying focused on the main thing, preparing myself to play every Sunday,” Walker said on Wednesday when asked about getting more reps. “Continue to go out there and give my best, and help the team win.”
Robinson would be the second player in line to potentially fill in for Ngakoue at the defensive end position. Of course, he does need to be added to the active roster first. The last time the 2022 fifth-round draft pick played was against the Raiders in Week 6.
The Bears have faced plenty of adversity during the course of the 2023 season and losing Ngakoue will add another layer. Still, the team has shown resiliency, especially in the last month, and now Ngakoue’s teammates will have to step up to close out these final four games.
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