Over four years ago, the Washington Commanders made Ohio State defensive lineman Chase Young the second overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and for good reason. Young had a sensational career for the Buckeyes, logging an incredible 27 sacks and 35.5 tackles for loss over his final two seasons in Columbus, and winning prestigious awards, such as Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and the Bronko Nagurski Award.
Young's on-field performance, coupled with his 6-foot-5, 264-pound frame and elite athletic ability, made him an easy choice to be the first non-quarterback taken in the draft. He started his NFL career off well, winning Defensive Rookie of the Year and finishing with 7.4 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, and 12 QB hits. Young's tape showed a player with plenty to learn technically but with the natural ability to affect games in a serious way even though he was barely scratching the surface of his potential.
He did deal with a few nagging injuries during his rookie campaign, and then, nine games into 2021, Young suffered a torn ACL, and missed all but three games in 2022, and then sat out the first two games of 2023 due to a neck injury, and that was after the team declined his fifth-year option prior to the season.
Chase Young is back and the NFL should take notice
When Young was on the field during 2021 and 2022, he looked like a shell of the all-world defender he was at Ohio State. In those 12 games, he totaled just 1.5 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, and 5 QB hits. His PFF overall grade plummeted from an elite 87.2 as a rookie to 75.1 in 2021 and 78.4 in 2022. That's a significant dropoff, but also an impressive testament to how effective Young can be, even at a fraction of his full power.
Back on the field and recovered from his knee injury, Young has played well through three games this season, with 2.5 sacks, three tackles for loss, and four QB hits. It remains to be seen how healthy he can stay, and how much of his immense athleticism he lost to his injury, but he is certainly on the right track. Still just 24 years old, Young is in a contract year, and could be playing for a new team in 2024, so now is his chance to audition for both Washington and the rest of the league and prove that he's worth investing in long-term.
It hasn't manifested itself on the field as often as Washington had hoped, but Young is still one of the most physically talented players in the league, at any position. Raw, yes. Injury-prone, perhaps. But extremely talented, and eager to prove he is not a draft bust.
It's always good to see a player make his way back from an injury to perform well again, and Young is doing just that. It's a long season, and we'll need to see consistency from him, but he is finally healthy once again, and is playing like it. Chase Young's comeback tour should be appreciated by Commanders fans and the broader NFL landscape alike.