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Ngakoue Wants to be Spark for Vikings Defense Against Colts

EAGAN, Minn. — Perhaps it was to be expected that Yannick Ngakoue didn't make a sizable impact in his Vikings debut.

He had only had a handful of practices to go off of, was trying to learn a new system, get acclimated to his new team and find his game despite not partaking in a training camp.

Add in the absence of Danielle Hunter on the other side, plus going up against a veteran Packers offensive line, and it was easy to see why the Vikings and Ngakoue struggled to get pressure on Aaron Rodgers on Sunday.

But Ngakoue isn't one to make excuses. And he wants to be better going forward.

"It [felt] great coming into it for a guy who just did four practices," Ngakoue said Wednesday in a video conference with the Twin Cities media. "But at the same time, I feel like I could've made a bigger impact of helping the d-line out, just forcing more pressures on the quarterback, regardless who's there or back there in the pocket.

"So, it [was] a great feeling, being able to run out in that Purple" Ngakoue added, "but at the same time, I've still got a bad taste in my mouth, and I want to make it right this weekend."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was in agreement with the defensive end, who was acquired in a trade from Jacksonville a little over two weeks ago.

Over time, Zimmer noted, he expects Ngakoue's level of play to go up.

"Yeah, I would think so," Zimmer said. "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. So, I'm sure as the season progresses, he'll continue to understand things more."

According to the analytics website Pro Football Focus, Ngakoue was one of five Vikings to record just a single pressure on Rodgers in Week 1. (Defensive tackle Shamar Stephen led all Vikings players with two pressures, according to PFF).

That makes seven total pressures in 44 dropbacks from Week 1, with no sacks to show from it.

"I just feel like we came out flat, you know what I mean?" Ngakoue said. "We shouldn't let the outside elements dictate how our energy is.

"People want to say, I guess, not having fans and things like that, but at the end of the day it's just like playing backyard football," Ngakoue added. "We didn't have any fans back then. We just went out there and had fun, and that's what we need to do, regardless of if there's fans in the building or not."

View game action images between matchups of the Vikings and Colts through the years.

Ngakoue and his teammates will get a chance to redeem themselves Sunday against the Colts, a team the defensive end knows well from the four seasons his spent in the AFC South.

In eight career games against Indianapolis, Ngakoue has 6.5 career sacks and recorded at least one sack in five separate games. He's also added three forced fumbles and an interception.

"I see a lot of the similar things I've seen over the past four years when I was in Jacksonville. Big guys, big o-line," Ngakoue said. "They try to get their hands on you and just try to swallow you up.

"So I've just got to try to bring that same intensity that I've brought these last four years into this game," Ngakoue added. "Not just that, but just trying to inform the guys that I'm playing with how they can beat certain guys that are their matchups, and things like that."

The respect factor goes both ways between Ngakoue and the Colts.

"When it was apparent that Yannick was going to get traded, obviously we were happy about that, and then, of course, right away, he's going to Minnesota so we'll see him in Week 2," said Colts Head Coach Frank Reich. "We have a lot of respect for Yannick here in this building. Obviously, having played against him several times, he has a relentless motor, he's a fierce competitor.

"We just feel like he's a really good player. He's tough and plays with the right kind of mindset. That was a very good pickup for the Vikings," Reich added. "Having gone up against him, I think Vikings fans can be really encouraged about that pickup."

A bounce-back effort by Ngakoue and his defensive teammates won't be easy, as the Colts feature one the league's top offensive lines.

Left guard Quenton Nelson has made two Pro Bowls and a pair of All-Pro teams in his first two NFL seasons, while tackles Anthony Castonzo and Braden Smith are both trustworthy veterans.

Zimmer said "this offensive line is definitely one of the best in the league."

Ngakoue concurred with his head coach, but also noted that he hardly cares about how he's performed against Indianapolis in the past.

He's a Viking now, and his sole focus is on helping his new team pressure the opposing quarterback, and make sure they don't fall into an 0-2 hole to start the season.

"I've had a ton of confidence every game I've played in my career," Ngakoue said. "I'm not worried about the things that I've done in the past against them because the things in the past don't matter.

"It's all about the now," Ngakoue added. "And right now, this defensive line and this defense needs a spark, and I need to go make that spark this weekend."