- The Washington Times - Monday, December 21, 2020

Chase Young isn’t just a fan favorite. The Washington pass-rusher’s teammates, coaches and peers hold the rookie in high regard, too. Ryan Kerrigan called the 21-year-old the team’s emotional leader. Alex Smith said “it’s crazy unusual” for a rookie to have “genuine leadership” like Young does. Coach Ron Rivera said he sensed early on that Young could make a big impact for Washington.

Not even fully through his rookie year, Young has more than lived up to the high expectations that came with being drafted second overall.

And on Monday, Young earned an honor that is sure to be the first of many throughout his career: Young was named to the Pro Bowl as a backup — becoming the youngest player in franchise history to do so. 

Young joined guard Brandon Scherff as the only Washington players to be named to the squad. Scherff, who made the game for the second straight year, earned a starting spot. 

Young led all NFC defensive ends in terms of fan vote with 128,042. But the fans only accounted a third of the vote, meaning the first-rounders spot was solidified by players and coaches.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Pro Bowl will be held virtually this year — with the event taking place on EA Sports’ “Madden 21” video game. The actual game, set to be held on Jan. 31 in Las Vegas, was canceled in October.

Young’s selection is well deserved. On the field, Young has wreaked havoc by overpowering offensive linemen, stuffing running backs and crushing opposing quarterbacks. He leads all rookies with 5 ½ sacks and has 38 tackles with eight tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.

But Young’s impact is even more remarkable given the turnaround that Washington has had defensively since his arrival. Washington’s defense ranks fourth in total yards allowed, second in passing, 13th in rushing and fifth in points — all major improvements from last season. That leap can be traced back to Young, whose presence has unlocked a defensive line that ranks second in sacks.

Beyond his on-the-field contributions, Young has become a vocal leader for Washington. He leads pre-game speeches near midfield. He sprints up and down the sideline when the offense is in the game, cheering them on. After Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks, he was seen encouraging quarterback Dwayne Haskins.

Smith said players respect how Young is “so comfortable in his own skin,” adding that positive energy has rubbed off on teammates.

“I’ve never seen a guy roam the sidelines like he does as we’re on offense,” Smith said last week. “How engaged he is, how honest he is and sincere, and how much he cares about his teammates, how much he loves competition. It’s very, very rare.”

As for Scherff, this will be the guard’s fourth Pro Bowl appearance. Scherff earned the honor despite missing three games with a knee injury this season. Still, when healthy, Scherff has been one of the best right guards in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s given up just two sacks in 2020.

Washington’s biggest snub was arguably punter Tress Way, who was having another stellar season after making the Pro Bowl last year. He ranks sixth in net yards per punt (48.1) and seventh with punts downed inside the 20-yard line (22). He has been named NFC special teams player of the week twice this season. Special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor said Friday that Way “elevates the players around him.”

Way, however, was beat out by Detroit Lions punter Jack Fox, who is averaging 49.3 yards per punt. 

Elsewhere around the league, the Baltimore Ravens had seven players make the AFC roster: tackle Orlando Brown Jr., defensive Calais Campbell, long snapper Morgan Cox, cornerback Marlon Humphrey, outside linebacker Matthew Judon, fullback Patrick Ricard and kicker Justin Tucker.

Baltimore’s seven selections tied the Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers for most in the league. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes led all players in fan votes with 342,353.  Green Bay’s  Aaron Rodgers was named the starting quarterback for the NFC.

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