Chase Young is going to miss at least the first four games of the Washington Commanders' season, which means they need to provide answers for how to fill that production in his absence.
Casey Toohill is one of those answers.
Toohill, a seventh-round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2020 who got picked up by Washington in October of that year, has been splitting time with James Smith-Williams as one of the starting defensive ends. He has made a handful of standout plays, too, including a fumble recovery in training camp that would have been returned for a touchdown.
Toohill does not spend time analyzing the circumstances that led to him getting more snaps, but it is an opportunity. More growth as a player has come with the increase in playing time, and he has two distinguished pass-rushers -- Young and Ryan Kerrigan -- to lean on as he prepares for his third season.
"Chase is very technical and a very, very smart guy," Toohill said. "What I've really respected and appreciated about him during camp is that he's out here and he's coaching us."
Toohill is facing a similar situation to the one he was in last season first injured himself against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Toohill got his first career start the following week and got 43 snaps, which was much higher than the average of about 10 he received in the previous nine games. He put up a career-high 29 tackles with seven quarterback hits and a sack.
With Young being placed on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list on Tuesday, Toohill will likely see similar snaps to start the season. That is why having a player like Young at their disposal has been so helpful. Young is not sulking, Toohill said, nor is he just providing meaningless tips.
Young has been particularly helpful with giving his teammates pointers on technique.
"He's been very detailed with all of us, and he coaches everybody," Toohill said. "It's like having another coach on the field. Big emphasis on staying low."
The extra help has showed up on the practice field. Prior to the fumble recovery in camp, he also blew up a run on the previous play. Coach Ron Rivera has noticed Toohill's production, calling him "a true, physical try-hard guy."
"The thing about Casey that you like is that he is a guy that has the flexibility that you can drop him into coverage on occasion," Rivera said. "That is to the benefit especially when you get into that five-man front because we are not always rushing five."
The Washington Commanders were back in pads for their second day of preparation ahead of their final preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens. Check out the top photos from the afternoon. Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders
Toohill and Washington's other defensive linemen have also benefited from having Kerrigan attend practice since his retirement. Kerrigan is not a member of the coaching staff, but he has expressed an interest in the career path and has been shadowing the staff over the past month.
Toohill used to watch Kerrigan's game film in high school when he was supposed to be learning to play the saxophone in music class, so getting tips from the franchise's all-time official sack leader has been "awesome."
"Being able to talk to him, it's been a dream come true. I love working with him. He's got a great mind set and it's been a great pleasure."
Toohill knows he is ready for the season to begin. On top of the time he has spent learning from Young and Kerrigan, he spent the offseason focusing on the details of his skill set like hand placement and footwork. He has made tweaks to his pass-rushing moves that seem small but "make a big difference in the end."
Of course, Toohill is never happy when a player gets hurt, and it was unfortunate to see a player like Young who possesses such talent sidelined for the foreseeable future. At the same time, it is a chance to make more of a contribution, and he is aiming to take full advantage of it.
"It was just dialing in my focus, doing the same thing I've been doing but just more of an opportunity and more plays," Toohill said. "I think it's the same now, keeping that same focus as I had before and getting things going."