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'A long time coming': Chase Young looked disruptive in 2023 season debut


Russell Wilson was sprinting for the first-down marker on third-and-2 with the score tied at 21 during the Washington Commanders' Week 2 game against the Denver Broncos. He didn't get far. 

Just as it looked like Wilson was about to escape the collapsing pocket and scamper forward for what would have most certainly given Denver a fresh set of downs and possible a touchdown, Chase Young, who had beaten left tackle Garett Bolles, dove at Wilson's feet from behind, tripping him up just enough to force the three-yard sack. 

For the Commanders, it was a significant play that limited the Broncos to a field goal and kept them in the game. For Young, it was his first full sack since the 2021 season. After the play, Young put his hands together in prayer to show how grateful he was to be back on the field. 

"I think it was very important," head coach Ron Rivera said of Young's sack. "I think it was kind of probably on his mind." 

It's been a long time since the Commanders have seen the version of Young that was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2020. Recovering from a torn ACL and patellar tendon kept him out for almost all of the 2022 season, while a stinger kept him limited in the preseason and forced him to miss Week 1. Now, Young is fully healthy, and this time, he's really back. 

"It's been a long time coming for me," Young said.

Not that it was shocking to see Young play well in his 2023 debut -- three tackles (one for a loss) with 1.5 sacks and two quarterback hits -- but it was a pleasant surprise for him to be on the field and receive such a large volume of defensive snaps. Neither Young nor the team had made any official statement regarding how long the stinger would keep him out of games, but the reports indicated that he wouldn't be available until Week 3.

Instead, it was announced last Friday that Young was a full participant in practice that day and would be cleared to play in Week 2, albeit on a snap count. Whatever Young's number was, he blew past that on Sunday, playing 47 of the 66 defensive snaps.

"He was so excited to get back out on the field," Rivera said. "We had to really kind of try to temper him the best we could. A couple times he popped out there when it wasn't his time to rotate in."

Whenever he was on the field, Young was disruptive and showed off the athleticism, quickness and playmaking ability that fans saw from the former No. 2 overall pick in 2020. On a second-and-10 in the second quarter, Young shrugged off a block from Bolles and took down running back Javonte Williams for just one yard. In the fourth quarter, Young pushed Bolles into Wilson's lap before sharing a sack with Montez Sweat.

Young has been working since OTAs to be ready for his fourth season. There were signs that he was feeling better than he had in years, both through verbal confirmations by Rivera, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina as well as his performance on the practice field. Seeing that in a game that actually counts, though, is a welcome sight for the team.

"He did remind me...of the things from his rookie year," Rivera said.

Young matched his entire sack total from the 2021 season in one game. With that mental hurdle out of the way, Rivera said Young "just goes out there and play."

"That's what I thought he did in the second half. It's one of those things that you want to be able to finish and he did."

Reporters huddled around Young's locker after the 35-33 win and asked if he felt like he reminded the NFL what he is as a player. Before he could answer, Sweat cut in and said, "You're f-----' right!"

Young later smiled about the exchange, but he was more measured when answering the question.

"When you up, they're going to praise you," Young said. "When you're down, they're going to hate you. But I'm right in the middle."

Young doesn't seem concerned with people believing that he's "back." For now, he's just happy to be back doing what he loves.

"Just a blessing just to be running around on the field, being out there relying on the guys," Young said. "I think that was the most exciting thing."

And the Commanders are happy to have their quartet of first-round picks fully healthy and setting the tone for their defense.

"He just wants to play so badly," Rivera said, "so it was so good to see him play the way he did."

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