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Ngakoue making smooth transition with Bears

Bears defensive end Yannick Ngakoue
Bears defensive end Yannick Ngakoue

Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue will continue his assimilation process with the Bears this week in a familiar setting surrounded by recognizable faces.

The eight-year veteran, who played for the Colts last season, will return to Indianapolis with the Bears for joint practices Wednesday and Thursday followed by a preseason game Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.

"A lot of good dudes that I played with on that team," Ngakoue said Monday at Halas Hall. "Built a lot of relationships over there. So I'm just excited to be able to go say hi and practice with those guys and also just see how they're doing."

Since signing with the Bears Aug. 5, Ngakoue has been doing just fine. Having played in similar schemes, the 6-2, 246-pounder is already feeling comfortable in the Bears defense.

Ngakoue's transition has been aided by reuniting with Bears defensive line coach Travis Smith, who served as assistant defensive line coach under Rod Marinelli when Ngakoue played for the Raiders in 2021. 

"I feel like it's very smooth for me," Ngakoue said. "I'm blessed and thankful that I'm able to have coach Travis again. He's a great teacher. He allows you to just be yourself, and he's the same guy every day coming to work. So that's somebody that I love to play for and get coached by." 

Ngakoue was already an established pro when he joined the Raiders, but he still learned a valuable lesson from Smith and Marinelli. 

"I feel like it was things that coach Travis as well as coach Marinelli taught me to become a better player, and it's basically just your effort," Ngakoue said. "How bad do you want it? Sometimes you mess up on a play, but you can make a play not look like a mistake if you're just going full speed. It's all about going full speed and it's also about being a servant leader and just giving back to the young guys, just telling them the things they can do so they don't make the same mistakes you make."

Check out the on-field action as the Bears take on the Tennessee Titans at Soldier Field during Week 1 of the preseason.

To that end, Ngakoue was spotted working with rookie defensive tackle Gervon Dexter Sr., a second-round pick from Florida, after a recent practice.

"I just see a lot of potential in him," Ngakoue said. "I see a lot of myself in him as well. His first step is quick. He's a guy and I feel like he can be a Day 1 guy that can just affect the quarterback, affect the run game. So I just wanted to share my knowledge with him, and you can always learn stuff from the young guys as well."

Ngakoue joins the Bears having appeared in 110 NFL games with 102 starts over seven seasons with the Jaguars (2016-19), Vikings (2020), Ravens (2020), Raiders (2021) and Colts (2022). He has recorded 202 tackles, 65.0 sacks, 65 tackles-for-loss, 21 forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

Ngakoue continues to familiarize himself with not only the Bears defense, but his new linemates. Working in concert with them on stunts and other pass rushes is paramount, but Ngakoue believes that building a rapport is much easier for defensive linemen than, say, a quarterback and a receiver.

"I feel like it just takes a few practices," he said, "just to learn what your three technique likes to do; his steps, his movements, how quick he gets off the ball and vice versa. He will figure out me as a defensive end, how quick I'm getting off the ball, my steps, what I like to see and things like that. It's just a feel for each other and I feel like that comes fairly quick, but it also gets better as time progresses."

Ngakoue's practice reps have been increasing. And while it's not known whether he'll play Saturday against the Colts—or in the Bears' preseason finale a week later versus the Bills—he no doubt will be ready for the regular season.

"Practicing and playing in a [preseason] game is pretty good," Ngakoue said. "But I take my practice reps like game reps. I don't try to wait until the game comes and try to turn it on. I try to turn it on every time I touch the field."