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Ngakoue Trade Could Continue Vikings Recent Edge Rushing Success

EAGAN, Minn. — From Purple People Eaters Jim Marshall and Carl Eller working in tandem to Chris Doleman in the '80s and '90s, the Vikings have a history of standout defensive ends long before Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer's hire in 2014.

Jared Allen arrived in 2008 and recorded six straight seasons of at least 11.0 sacks. He teamed with both Everson Griffen and Brian Robison for a menacing group.

Once Allen left, Griffen and Robison carried the torch in the early Zimmer years, even when Minnesota drafted Danielle Hunter in 2015.

And now that the Vikings have officially announced a trade for 2017 Pro Bowl defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, Minnesota appears set for the foreseeable future with more edge-rushing talent.

Opposing quarterbacks, beware.

Zimmer and Vikings Co-Defensive Coordinator Andre Patterson both commented this week about what a pair of star edge rushers bring to a defense.

"Well, typically, you know, if you've got two guys, they try to chip with two guys — one on each side," Zimmer said. "Yeah, I mean, every team is going to game-plan for your best players, and that won't be any different than what it's been in the past."

Added Patterson: "Well, obviously, it helps us out. Teams have to try to find a way to handle two guys off the edge. Usually, they've got to take a guy from running a route, so that's fewer guys running down the field, which helps our secondary and our linebackers out. That helps us out tremendously."

Hunter's elite status is well-known. He has 54.5 career sacks in his first five seasons and became the youngest player in NFL history to reach 50.0 career sacks.

As for Ngakoue? He has racked up 37.5 total sacks and forced 14 fumbles in his first four seasons in the league with Jacksonville.

Ngakoue, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 242 pounds, was a third-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft out of Maryland.

The 25-year-old recorded at least 8.0 sacks in each of his four seasons, and his 14 forced fumbles are the fourth-most in the NFL since he entered the league in 2016. His 37.5 sacks are the most by a Jaguars player through 63 games with the team and rank second in franchise history behind Tony Brackens (55 from 1996-2003).

View photos of new Vikings DE Yannick Ngakoue who was recently traded to the team.

While the presence of Hunter and Ngakoue will could opposing offenses headaches, what might happen with Ifeadi Odenigbo, who has repped with the first team in Griffen's former spot?

Odenigbo has experience at defensive end and defensive tackle. He recorded 7.0 sacks in 2019. He could work in the rotation at defensive end and possibly kick inside on passing downs.

"Well, we've used him on the inside on pass rush before," Zimmer said. "That's probably a natural progression."

Or, the Vikings could try to maximize Ngakoue's pass rush ability on third downs and other pass likely situations. NFL Network's Brian Baldinger broke down Ngakoue's "signature move" and knack for forcing fumbles in this video:

Ngakoue's arrival will impact the defensive line and could also help an unproven but talented cornerbacks group that has nine total NFL starts and no player over the age of 23.

The ability for Hunter, Ngakoue, Odenigbo and others to get constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks means that Minnesota's secondary doesn't have to cover for as long.

"We've been looking for another pass rusher for quite a while," Zimmer said. "I think that's important when you have a young secondary as well … I think that adds to what we can do."

Patterson and Vikings defensive backs coach Daronte Jones were more expansive in how pressuring the quarterbacks helps the rest of the defense, especially the cornerbacks.

"Oh it's big-time. If you can get the quarterback off the spot, it helps the secondary out so much," Patterson said. "If the quarterback is throwing the ball too short or too far, you speed up his rhythm, and he's got to get the ball out of his hands before the receivers have a chance to break off their routes. It helps tremendously. That's why I've said forever, it's more important to get pressure on the quarterback than sack the quarterback. Don't get me wrong, the players love to sack the quarterback. Sacking the quarterback is what gets them paid — I get it.

"But I've had a ton of games in my career where we've sacked the quarterback six times and he's thrown for 400 yards and we lost the game. I've had games where we've had two sacks, he's thrown for 200 yards and we beat them soundly — because we had a lot of pressure in the game and the quarterback was uncomfortable. Pressure leads to winning games, defensively, way more than sacking the quarterback does," Patterson continued. "I spend a great deal of time with our guys on us having quality rushes. That's what I grade them on. A guy can have a three-sack game and the whole world says he played great, but of those 30 rushes he had, those were the only three quality rushes he had. Well, he played terrible for me, because it's about quality rushes that make the quarterback feel uncomfortable, because that computes to winning football games."

Added Jones: "Any time you have the ability to affect the passing game … that definitely has a trickle down effect [on] the secondary. So we're all excited as an organization to have that addition. We're looking forward to him joining us. So I know the guys on the back end, we're all excited."

The Vikings experienced turnover at defensive end this offseason, with Griffen now in Dallas and Stephen Weatherly joining Carolina.

But the Vikings landed a highly touted pass rusher on Monday and will pair the 25-year-old with two-time Pro Bowler Hunter, who won't turn 26 until October.

Add in the rest of the collection of talent along Minnesota's defensive line, and it appears the Vikings will continue their recent history of making life as hard as possible for opposing quarterbacks.

"You're always looking for as many pass rushers as you can get," Patterson said. "You can never have too many guys that can rush the passer, and you can never have too many guys that can cover a receiver. That's something that you're always looking for. You're always trying to gain as many of those guys as you can.

"As a defensive coach, that's always something you're looking for," Patterson added. "We've got excellent pass rushers here, obviously, in Danielle and Ifeadi, and Armon Watts has some pass-rush skill to him, too. Whenever you get a chance to add another guy to the mix, that helps you out."