Yannick Ngakoue making progress in Bears defense

Bears defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (91, playing against the Bears in 2016) has had eight or more sacks in each of his seven seasons in the NFL.

Jeff Haynes, AP Photos

This is the point of an NFL training camp where players want to just hit somebody else. But for Bears defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who just arrived at Halas Hall last Tuesday, the Bears are somebody else. 

In fact, Ngakoue likely will be in a greater comfort zone in cross-over practices against the Colts this week than he was last week at Bears training camp. He spent last season practicing against many of the players he’ll face Wednesday and Thursday in Westfield, Ind. when he played for the Colts last season. 

“Absolutely,” Ngakoue said Monday after practice. “A lot of good dudes that I played with on that team. Built a lot of relationships over there. So I’m just excited to go say hi and practice with those guys — and also just see how they’re doing.” 

The Colts will be the fifth former team the well-traveled Ngakoue has faced in the last three seasons — and it seems to bring out his best. He had two sacks in a victory over the Jaguars with the Ravens in 2020; five tackles and a quarterback hit in a victory over the Ravens with the Raiders in 2021; a half-sack in a victory over the Raiders with the Colts in Week 10 last season; and one sack in an unlikely loss to the Vikings with the Colts in Week 15 last season — the Colts blew a 33-0 third-quarter lead to lose 39-36. 

But for the record, he’s not hyped to face the Colts. 

“No. There’s always motivation when I hit the field,” Ngakoue said. “Just trying to represent the organization as best I can and represent the name on the back of my jersey as best I can, no matter if it’s going against my own teammates [or] against an opposite-color jersey.” 

Ngakoue is still getting acclimated to the Bears and coach Matt Eberflus’ defense. But his general familiarity with coach Matt Eberflus’ defensive scheme and defensive line coach Travis Smith — his position coach with the Raiders in 2021 — are paying off. 

“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.” 

Having been in training camp for four days — doing mostly individual work — Ngakoue did not play in the Bears’ preseason opener against the Titans last week. Eberflus would not commit to Ngakoue playing against the Colts on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium — or even against the Bills on Aug. 26 at Soldier Field in the preseason finale. 

But Eberflus indicated that with Ngakoue’s experience — seven NFL seasons — having him play in the preseason is not a high priority. Ngakoue’s main objective is acclimating himself to the Bears’ defense and his role in it, and Eberflus is happy with that progress so far. 

“He’s been doing well,” Eberflus said. “He’s been picking up the scheme. It’s not a big stretch in terms of the scheme difference [from previous seasons] — he’s been in it the last few stops that he had, so it’s been pretty easy for him.” 

The signing of Ngakoue has eased some of the anxiety about the Bears’ pass rush. Defensive end DeMarcus Walker hasn’t practiced since Aug. 1, but is expected to be ready for the season opener against the Packers on Sept. 10 at Soldier Field. As for Ngakoue, he expects to be ready whether he plays in the preseason or not.

“I take my practice reps like game reps,” Ngakoue said. “I don’t wait until the game comes and try to turn it on. I try to turn it on every time I touch the field.” 

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