- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 6, 2021

Washington pass rusher Chase Young won defensive rookie of the year and quarterback Alex Smith was named comeback player of the year at the NFL’s honors show on Saturday. The Associated Press voted on the honors. 

Both awards were well deserved. 

Young was the clear favorite to earn the honor after a tremendous season in which he recorded 7½ sacks, 12 quarterback hits, 10 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles. Drafted second overall from Ohio State, Young made an immediate impact with Washington — which finished statistically with the second-best defense in football, a massive turnaround in large part because of Young’s arrival. Teammates praised Young for his leadership, and the 21-year-old was named captain later in the season. 

In his acceptance speech, aired on CBS, Young thanked his family and teammates. 

Young led all rookies in sacks. He is the first player to win the award in franchise history, and the fourth player from the organization to win a rookie of the year award — joining quarterback Robert Griffin III (2012), running back Mike Thomas (1975) and wide receiver Charley Taylor (1964), all of whom played on offense. 

“Chase excelled this season on the field and is one of the leaders of our football team,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said in a statement. “He energized the team and made everyone around him better. He is well-deserving of the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honor. The sky is the limit for Chase and I know that he is going to put in the work this offseason to come back and play at an even high level.” 

Smith, meanwhile, was the logical option to win comeback player of the year from the moment he made Washington’s roster. Returning from a life-threatening he suffered more than two years ago, Smith not only stepped on the field again but he led Washington to the playoffs. The 36-year-old went 5-1 as a starter, helping his team to win the NFC East. 

Smith, who required 17 surgeries and battled an infection that nearly cost him his life, made his season debut in October. Weeks later, he was named the team’s starting quarterback when Kyle Allen went down with a season-ending leg injury. Smith was better than expected, throwing for 1,582 yards and six touchdowns to eight interceptions. 

Smith was hampered by a calf injury to his surgically repaired leg down the stretch of the season, leading to Rivera to go with backup Taylor Heinicke in the team’s playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

But the injury hardly diminished Smith’s overall impact for Washington

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