- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2021

ASHBURN — Chase Young was a busy man this past offseason. Filming commercials and working as a spokesman for everything from eBay to Under Armour to Old Spice, the Washington defensive end had to juggle the demands of football with the responsibilities that come with product endorsements.

Young even chose to skip the team’s voluntary practices to keep up with his commercial commitments, though he maintained his own schedule of personal workouts — going as far as to send footage to coach Ron Rivera via texts.

So when he hears the suggestion that his off-the-field pursuits might be interfering with his performance on the field — last year’s NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year has just 1½ sacks this season — Young bristles.

“I was making money, baby,” Young said Thursday. “Got to make that money. None of y’all (reporters) would have ducked that money … At the end of the day, it’s a job. Ya feel me? Just like you all do your job, I do my job.”

Young’s logic is sound. After all, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady — Sunday’s opponent — is featured in all sorts of commercials and that hasn’t stopped him from consistently winning.  But Young does not have a Brady-like track record to quiet those types of questions.

If Young had, say, 10 sacks, the conversation would be different.

Instead, comments like this appear on social media: “Chase Young has more commercials than sacks.” There’s still half a season to play, but Young has yet to have the breakout second-year campaign most expected.

“I ain’t under pressure,” Young said. “I don’t feel pressure. I just be myself, be me. I don’t feel any pressure. I don’t hear people. At the end of the day, anybody who talks about you are just haters. 

“You gotta block out the haters.”

While Young insists he doesn’t pay attention to critics, there are those that have demanded more out of him publicly — including his own coach.

This week,  Ron Rivera discussed his desire to see Young increase his production. The coach revealed the two recently had a conversation and watched film together as they dissected Young’s season after the bye week.

Rivera said he wants to see Young better handle the added attention that he’s received from opposing offenses in 2021. Often, teams will use double teams and chippers — usually a running back or tight end — to slow down Young’s speed.  Rivera said Young can counteract that strategy by “running through” the chipper and staying patient. Rivera noted Young “dives inside a little too much.”

Rivera acknowledged there’s a “lot of pressure” on Young at the moment — especially given edge rusher Montez Sweat is out for at least a month with a broken jaw.  

But Rivera added he doesn’t want Young to feel as if he has to do anything “extraordinary.” The young pass rusher just has to make the plays available, he said.

“I hope everybody understands that this young man is trying to play to the best of his ability,” 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. But it’s not for lack of try.”

Young didn’t expand much Thursday when asked about his recent sitdown with Rivera. He said it “went well.” As for Rivera’s suggestion the defensive end dives in too much, Young defended himself. “Sometimes when (the blocker) just wants to line up outside of you, just to get on your outside, you got to come in,” he said.

This, of course, isn’t the first time Young has faced calls to be more productive since the team drafted him second overall in 2020. Last year, Young had only 3 ½ sacks through his first eight games — and a late roughing-the-passer penalty on then-Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford helped set up Detroit’s game-winning kick in Week 9.

Back then, Young quieted critics with a dominant run down the stretch. He earned four sacks over the next seven weeks and made a number of game-changing plays, such as his crushing hit on Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and touchdown return against the San Francisco 49ers.

Still, the noise is louder now. Washington is 2-6 and Young has only generated 23 pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. That’s tied for 48th league-wide.

Young said he doesn’t mind the criticism.  He pointed to the number of mentors who have helped him handle the spotlight over the years.

The Maryland native has been on the national stage since high school, committing to Ohio State as a five-star recruit.

Young even repeated some of his dad’s advice: “If people are talking about you it’s only because you’re doing better than them,” he said.

Then, he made a declaration.

“Everybody will talk,” Young said. “Just wait until down the road. Just keep watching.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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