Chase Young was missing from the Washington Football Team’s OTAs last week. They were voluntary; no problem. That didn’t stop him coming to the INOVA Sports Performance Center for 6 a.m. workouts, though, keeping his body in tip-top shape for when he did return to the field.
And return he did this week, One terrorizing the football field like a cicada on Ryan Fitzpatrick’s beard
“He looked good,” WFT coach Ron Rivera said of the prized second-year star Young. “He came and practiced with a lot of energy. He was flying around.''
And his absence?
“He’s got things he was doing,'' Rivera said. "I understand that and respect it, and that’s a big thing that we try to understand that it is voluntary.”
Young returns to Washington with bigger goals than in his first season. Then again, what more could he want? Last season, he finished leading all rookies in sacks (7.5) on his way to a Defensive Rookie of the Year honor. A division title also was claimed in large part to the defensive success down the stretch.
It’s always about building toward the next step in the game. For Young, that next step might be leading the NFL in sacks, or helping pick up his first winning season. All that starts with communication, an area he has remained constant with since the wild-card loss against Tampa Bay.
“I came out today, was playing fast, so I feel good,” Young said after a workout this week. “The biggest thing was communicating with coach Ron and [coordinator Jack] Del Rio.
"As long as I’m locked in, they know I’m working.''
Rivera has prioritized defense since arriving in Landover last winter. Young was his first selection, and this April, the team passed on offense again to add do-it-all linebacker Jamin Davis from Kentucky.
Since 2016, at least one first-round pick has been used to upgrade the defensive side of the ball in Washington. Young might be the best of bunch.
“The one thing that (Young) has is just the way he reacts,” new offensive tackle Charles Leno Jr. said. “He’s just playing football. He’s not going out there with a plan, and if the plan doesn’t work, he’s thinking about it. No, he’s just playing ball.”
Like all good pass-rushers, the plan to elevate the game from Year 1 to Year 2. Names like Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald all found their footing in their sophomore campaigns — two of which were under Del Rio’s supervision.
Miller went from 11.5 sacks in 2011 to 18 in 2012. Mack finished with four in 2014. A year later? Mack finished with 15.
Donald saw similar results, going from eight sacks to 11 by the end of his second season.
Can Young be the next great pass-rusher? Leno thinks so. He’d be a good judge since over the past three seasons, the former Bears left tackle lined up in practice against the All-Pro outside linebacker Mack.
As minicamp begins, Young will have personal goals, but also team ones. The biggest? Be a member of the league-best defense for 2021. And in reality, Washington is closer than some would think.
“I feel like if you look on paper, we could be the top defense in the league,” Young said.
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