Yannick Ngakoue is already looking forward to Round 2 with David Bakhtiari and the Green Bay Packers.
The new Minnesota Vikings defensive end struggled to make an impact against the Packers during his debut outing in Week 1, recording just one quarterback hit and no tackles in his first performance since being traded from the Jacksonville Jaguars on Aug. 31. One of the biggest obstacles for Ngakoue was Bakhtiari, the Packers’ All-Pro left tackle who consistently dominated him across their numerous matchups on Sunday.
While Ngakoue insists he doesn’t make excuses for his poor play, the 25-year-old pass rusher was quick to point out his lack of time spent working with the Vikings defense and also indicated Bakhtiari won’t have the same “upper hand” when the two teams meet again on Nov. 1 when the Packers host them in Green Bay.
Yannick Ngakoue on going against Packers LT David Bakhtiari in Week 1: "Bakhtiari is going to have to give me definitely a rematch when we play them again when we get to Green Bay. I feel like he had the upper hand. Like I said, I don’t make any excuses. He’s been in camp."
— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) September 16, 2020
“Bakhtiari is going to have to give me definitely a rematch when we play them again when we get to Green Bay,” Ngakoue told reporters Wednesday, per ESPN’s Courtney Cronin. “I feel like he had the upper hand. Like I said, I don’t make any excuses. He’s been in camp.”
Ngakoue certainly looked disadvantaged a number of times against Bakhtiari. One play in particular during the second quarter saw Bakhtiari keep back Ngakoue for nearly eight seconds as quarterback Aaron Rodgers shuffled around in the backfield. he protection bought Rodgers valuable time while assessing a free play — from defensive holding — and allowed him to heave the ball 60 yards downfield to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who nearly caught it at the Vikings’ 5-yard line before Harrison Smith and Mike Hughes broke up the pass.
Rodgers: I need 8 seconds.
Bakhtiari: Done. pic.twitter.com/iTLL9tuhab
— Aaron Nagler (@AaronNagler) September 14, 2020
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Zimmer Not Surprised by Ngakoue’s Quiet Start
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer was a realist about setting expectations for Ngakoue in his first game, recognizing his new pass rusher had only gotten a few practices in the defense and would need time to grow into what should be a prominent role in his system.
“It was tough on him coming in that late and trying to get all the techniques and everything we’re trying to get done, done,” Zimmer told reporters on Wednesday. “So, I’m sure as the season progresses, he’ll continue to understand things more.”
Ngakoue was hardly the only underachieving piece of the Vikings’ pass rush during Sunday’s 43-34 loss, either. Defensive tackle Shamar Stephen was the lone Vikings player to record more than one pressure on Rodgers with a combined seven across the board for the defense, which failed to produce even one sack as the Packers offense churned out 522 yards.
While Ngakoue is expected to play an important role, the Vikings are still adjusting to losing two of their star pass rushers between seasons. Former starter Everson Griffen signed with the Dallas Cowboys last month after opting out of the final three years on his contract with Minnesota earlier in the offseason. The Vikings will also have to play without star Danielle Hunter until at least Week 4 after placing him on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury.