Washington's Chase Young: 'I can take the criticism ... just keep watching'

ASHBURN, Va. -- The way Chase Young finished his rookie season led to one question entering his second year: Would the Washington Football Team defensive end become a top-five pass-rusher?

That hasn't happened. And, the question now is this: Why hasn't Young been more productive?

Through eight games he has 1.5 sacks and his pressure numbers are down. His sophomore season has become more about learning lessons than establishing his ranking as an NFL pass-rusher. He has been double-teamed and chipped more often than his rookie season.

"I'm a man, I can take the criticism," Young said. "It's a process. Everybody will talk. Just wait until down the road. Just keep watching."

But on Monday, coach Ron Rivera's message to him was basic: Stay patient and disciplined. With fellow defensive end Montez Sweat out 4-6 weeks with a broken jaw, there will be more burden on Young, starting with Sunday's game against the 6-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1 p.m. ET, Fox).

It takes a lot for Rivera to knock his players, and he did that with Young during the bye week in an article on the team's website and again during a news conference, mentioning how Young needs to do more and handle situations different.

"He's been tremendous about it. He works at it," Rivera said. "He's seeing some things that are a little different for him, a little new for him, and we're trying to help him through those to learn and understand how to win in those situations."

It will be difficult for Young and his fellow linemates to harass Sunday's opposing quarterback, Tom Brady. He has been sacked 12 times in eight games. Brady averages 2.50 seconds before throwing the ball, the second fastest in the NFL.

But for Young it's just about stringing together good rushes. In the second half of last season, he recorded four of his 7.5 sacks, forced three fumbles and recovered three. He set up other pass-rushers with his pressure.

"There's a lot of pressure on him," Rivera said. "I wanted to make sure he understands that he doesn't have to do something extraordinary. I don't want him to come in and think that every play has got to be great."

Young said the expectations are not a burden.

"I ain't under pressure," he said. "I don't feel pressure. I don't hear people. ... You got to block out the haters."

Later, he added: "I'm blessed. I get to play on Sundays. I support my family; I'm comfortable. I can just go out there and play my ball."

But he is under more scrutiny. That's life as a No. 2 overall pick, especially one playing for his hometown team.

"He gets frustrated but I don't think he'd be as frustrated if they were winning," said Young's personal manager Ian Thomas, who played collegiately at Illinois and coached Young for two years in high school. "He's a guy that could be in double digits [in sacks] by this point in the season ... But he won't make excuses. He can point out all the reasons why, but he still wants it. He won't use that as a reason for not making the plays he wants to make."

Young, a team captain, missed voluntary offseason workouts while shooting commercials. It's hard to say if he would be having a better season had he shown up for those workouts.

"I was making money, baby," Young said. "Got to make the money. None of you all would have ducked the money. It's a job, just like you all have to do your job, I do my job."

Last season, Young won off the edge on 22.3% of his pass rushes compared to 18.6% this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He defeated double-teams 14.3% of the time compared to 2.9% in 2021. When he rushed inside last season, he won 20% of the time; he has not rushed inside much this season, but has yet to win.

He's being chipped more by tight ends and backs compared to 2020. Lines are sliding his way more often. Rivera said their internal stats have Young and Sweat being chipped 55 to 57% of the time when it's third-and-7 to third-and-10.

"Some plays they line the chipper out there and I expect them to chip me and he doesn't," Young said. "It's like they're playing a mind game. I just have to adapt. It's just dialing in like I'm doing and keep trusting the process. ... I talked to coach Rivera and we've got a plan to fix that."

Rivera said: "I'd love to see him run through that guy a few more times and kind of set the tone and tempo instead of reacting to him a little too much. It's something he never had to face."

Young said he will reach out to Chicago Bears linebacker Khalil Mack, whom he has known since the ninth grade. Young also has talked to other former pass-rushers, from Michael Strahan to Bruce Smith.

Their advice, in part, was: You can beat it with power.

But Young also knows he has to mature in some aspects.

"It has a lot to do with me not trusting my teammates, us not trusting each other as a whole," he said. "I might think someone might be out of place and I'm like I've got to cover that and then, 'boop.' We have to trust each other."

His teammates trust him.

"He has a lot of expectations because of who he is," said Washington receiver Terry McLaurin, who also played with Young at Ohio State. "He doesn't shy away from that. ... He hasn't gotten too low, even though he would want more from himself. He's still working and working, knowing that those opportunities are going to present themselves down the stretch."