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NFL Draft

Chase Young’s Success Goes Beyond Box Score Stats

  • The Draft Network
  • December 15, 2020
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July 24th, 2018, the earliest tweet I can find where someone out there was claiming that a freshman pass rusher at Ohio State, Chase Young, was going No. 1 overall in whatever NFL Draft he put his name in. 

That was before his 10.5-sack sophomore season opposite Nick Bosa. That was before his near record-breaking 16.5-sack season the following year. People have been talking about Young being not just good, but great for a long, long time. Anytime that happens, fatigue is inevitable.

Young didn’t end up being the future No. 1 overall pick of his NFL draft class, but it was hardly a slight to him, as the only player picked in front of him was the quarterback that just had the greatest college football season of all time going to a quarterback-needy team. Young went right after that to an already stacked Washington front seven and has taken it next level.

Young’s name was naturally at the top of the Defensive Rookie of the Year odds to start the season. As it is often a sack-driven award, this made sense; biggest name, highest defensive draft pick, and a player who plays a position to record flashy stats. But Young’s first season has been quiet in the NFL relative to both what he did at Ohio State the last two years and what we’ve seen from rookie pass rushers in the recent past.

Does that make his first season any less of a success or any less praise-worthy? Absolutely not.

After Sunday’s stat-stuffing performance in Washington’s win over the San Francisco 49ers, Young now has 5.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, eight tackles for loss, eight quarterback hits, and one defensive touchdown. With three games left, Young will likely finish with less than double-digit sacks in his first year. When you look at last year’s rookie pass rushers and see Josh Allen’s 10.5, Maxx Crosby’s 10, and Nick Bosa’s nine sacks, some might think Young (who was probably more highly regarded than all of them, minus maybe Bosa) had a disappointing year.

Think again.

I’m going to point out four plays that really impressed me from Young this past weekend, and one of them isn’t even his fumble recovery for a touchdown. The first one is shown above. It is a baseline for what will get gradually more and more impressive as we share more.

Young (No. 99) was aligned as the right outside linebacker in the clip above. He was in a stand-up position (two-point stance), which Washington does plenty with him in their multiple front. The play was a wide receiver screen to the left side, so Young never had a chance at any kind of pass rush on this rep, but he did instantly make sure to turn his hips and pursue the ball to the sideline, eventually being the one to make the tackle.

The stats here aren’t nearly as important as the instant, no-brainer natural thought to make sure he turned to pursue up the field. That motor translates as a baseline to other players more toward the backfield.

The play directly above was Young’s sack in his game against the 49ers. In it, he was slow to get into a three-point stance as a defensive end as to sort of bring a potential element of surprise to the 49ers’ offensive line. The surprise was taken to another level when Young dropped back into coverage at the snap. But Young didn’t stay in coverage.

Young’s assignment on this play was to wait to see if the left tackle would take his eyes off him once he dropped into coverage. If he did, Young had the green light to go after the quarterback if he still had the ball. Thanks to Young’s incredible burst and speed at his size, he was able to get back to the line of scrimmage before the offensive line could adjust. 

One second he was back in coverage, the next he was closing in on the quarterback so fast it was too late to even throw the ball away. That high athletic ceiling was on full display there.

That play led to another later in the game that Young “made” but didn’t even get a common stat on.

It was a play-action boot from the 49ers, but Young was so quick to get out of his stance and swim the right tackle that he was right in Nick Mullens’ rearview mirror as he was escaping on the boot. You can see Mullens take a glance behind him to see if anyone made it through the line, and when he noticed that it was Young, you can almost see his mind flash back to the sack where Young’s speed was unexpected. He then got rid of the ball inaccurately and before he wanted to.

Here’s the final play I wanted to show. Young was the right defensive end on that play, and the 49ers were running outside zone away from him. Yet, Young’s burst off the snap was so explosive and so fast that he was able to catch the running back from behind (thanks to some help) and blasted him in the backfield with such force that it jarred the ball loose. 

Young is not quite the polished pass rusher that Bosa was in his rookie season, but those alien-like athletic traits are on display every time he takes the field. Though he might fall short of double-digit sacks this season, it won’t be long before he hits that mark.

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