John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer 28d

Redskins' Jack Del Rio grasps impact of pass-rushers like Chase Young

ASHBURN, Va. -- There's not much Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio can say about former Ohio State Buckeyes defensive end Chase Young. Del Rio just started his new gig and hasn't dived too deeply into preparations for the 2020 NFL draft.

However, there's not much Del Rio needs to say. He has already lived through the impact a pass-rusher like Young can make.

Del Rio was in Carolina when the Panthers drafted Julius Peppers No. 2 overall in 2002. He was in Denver a year after the Broncos selected Von Miller at No. 2 in 2011. He arrived in Oakland a year after Khalil Mack was selected at No. 5 in 2014.

"Having a guy like Von Miller or a guy like Khalil Mack, who are premier pass-rushers, they put a lot of pressure on the offense and help the defense," Del Rio said. "It all starts for us with the penetrative, disruptive defensive linemen."

That's why there's a good chance he'll also be able to say he was in Washington when the Redskins drafted Young with the No. 2 pick in 2020. Nothing, of course, is guaranteed -- several scenarios exist for the Redskins. And Del Rio, speaking with the Washington media for the first time since being hired, admitted he is unlikely to share his views on Young.

"It is way too premature to start talking about it," Del Rio said. "Honestly, I am not going to be providing my evaluation for the world, anyway."

The Redskins will switch to a 4-3 next season after playing a 3-4 since 2010. But they do have in-house options to play end -- Montez Sweat, who finished his rookie season, and veteran Ryan Kerrigan.

However, they could draft Young, figuring he's the sort of pass-rusher who's hard to find and who can instantly upgrade a defense. He's athletic and, at 6-foot-5, has good length. He parlayed that into 16.5 sacks and 21 tackles for a loss last season. The adage about never having enough pass-rushers would apply. So, too, would this thought: You don't pass on elite pass-rushers.

Washington could try to trade Kerrigan or release him, saving $11.687 million against the salary cap. He has one year remaining on his contract. If the Redskins want to start Sweat and Young, then Kerrigan would become an expensive backup -- albeit one who would be part of the rotation. The old regime had initial talks about extending Kerrigan's deal, but coach Ron Rivera and Del Rio are not tied to any player.

They could also trade back in the draft with a team that might want Young or, more likely, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (assuming LSU quarterback Joe Burrow goes No. 1 to Cincinnati). There could be competition between Miami (fifth), the Los Angeles Chargers (sixth) and Carolina Panthers (seventh), depending on their evaluation of Cam Newton, to move up for a quarterback.

Those options will be discussed -- over and over again -- before the draft. But whatever the Redskins do, Young will be drafted high.

"He's an explosive guy that can bend and do things you need to do to be an elite pass-rusher, a little like Von," ESPN NFL analyst John Fox said.

Which, again, brings it back to Del Rio. It's no coincidence that, during his three seasons as Denver's defensive coordinator under Fox, the Broncos ranked third in third-down defense. Over the past two seasons combined, the Redskins ranked last in third-down defense.

Denver had a stronger secondary than Washington does now, which contributes to the disparity in those statistics. The Redskins did rank seventh in percentage of sacks per pass attempt this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They were also 10th in sacks (46) without an elite pass-rusher.

"It starts up front," Fox said. "The best pass defense in the world is a pass rush. ... Most teams that are good every year [on third down] have a good four-man rush. You can be a lot more intricate in the coverages you run. The minute you bring that five-man rush you're limited to single-high coverages. That's what makes San Francisco so good is their four-man front is probably better than everyone else."

Sure enough, the 49ers rank third on third downs. Last offseason, the 49ers traded for pass-rusher Dee Ford after they had invested first-round picks along the defensive line in three of the previous four years. Still, they made the no-brainer choice by selecting another Ohio State pass-rusher at No. 2 overall last season -- Nick Bosa. He has nine of their 48 sacks, which were tied for fifth this season. The 49ers ranked second in holding opposing quarterbacks to a Total QBR of 42.6. It starts with the pass rush. Which, eventually, leads back to Young and Washington.

"You can't have too many of them because you only have five pass protectors and you've got four rushers and you can't double everybody," Fox said. "The more guys you have the better."

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