Commanders’ Chase Young is set to practice, but Ron Rivera urges patience


Washington Commanders Coach Ron Rivera said Monday that defensive end Chase Young will be designated to return to practice Wednesday, which will start the 21-day window in which the team can add him back to the active roster.

“For all intents and purposes, we’re going to start on Wednesday with him,” Rivera said. “… He had a final good visit with [orthopedic surgeon James Andrews, who] was very, very pleased. Chase has been working out with the strength and conditioning group the last few days, and he’ll continue right into Wednesday, where he’ll start with positional drills, and by doing so he’ll get an opportunity to be involved in all the walk-throughs and installation periods that we have.”

From there, Young will go to the side field to work with the athletic trainers so as to ease him back into football shape. How his body feels each subsequent day will determine the team’s pace in bringing him back.

Washington has preached patience with Young after he had extensive surgery in November 2021. In the summer, Young indicated to reporters that his right ACL was not repaired but reconstructed, with the torn ligament removed and replaced with part of the patellar tendon from his left knee. Such a procedure is common, but it typically comes with a longer recovery period.

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Young has been sidelined for nearly a full year since suffering the injury in Week 10 last season, missing a total of 16 games.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time with an ACL tear, the ligament is reconstructed,” said Clint Soppe, an orthopedic surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles. “A repair [a less invasive surgery to reattach the torn ligament] is extremely rare, and it’s only been done more recently. … Almost every high-level athlete who has an ACL tear gets a reconstruction.”

The Commanders will have three weeks to add Young to the active roster once he resumes practice, but his game-day availability probably won’t be immediate. Rivera, who originally indicated Young was going to return to practice in Week 8, decided instead to slow his return to get further approval from the doctor.

Next up for Washington is the Minnesota Vikings at FedEx Field on Sunday.

“He’s going to have to get back into the mode,” Rivera said Monday. “He’s going to have to get back into condition. Believe me, playing football is completely different from rehabbing, obviously, and the more reps he can get on the practice field prior to stepping onto the game field, [it] would be very beneficial to him.”

Young spent part of the offseason rehabilitating in Colorado Springs before returning to the team facility in the spring to continue to build up his strength. His workload in recovery seemed to increase in recent weeks as he ran through full pregame workouts under the guidance of an athletic trainer. Ahead of Washington’s win in Indianapolis on Sunday, Young worked out without using the large leg brace he had worn in previous weeks.

As Young has inched closer to a return, Rivera has said his eagerness has been palpable.

“He was fired up. He was really ready to go,” Rivera said. “He had that look on his face that [said], ‘All right, I’m ready.’ But I had to tell him now: ‘We’ve got to follow the directions. We can’t push more for more until each step is cleared.’ ”

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Young’s absence has at times prompted Washington to get creative in filling the void on the edge of the line. For the latter half of the 2021 season, the Commanders used more five-man fronts — the most in the league from Week 10 on — to apply pressure on the quarterback and plug holes in the run defense.

This season, Washington benefited from the growth of its reserve linemen, led by James Smith-Williams. The 2020 seventh-round pick has started six games opposite Montez Sweat and has notched two sacks and a batted pass. Casey Toohill and Efe Obada also have rotated in reserve, providing a relatively seamless transition when the starters roll out or when used in certain pressure packages. It wasn’t until Sunday against the Colts that Washington used more five-man fronts, largely to compensate for the loss of linebacker Cole Holcomb. Rivera said he would get more clarification on Holcomb’s foot injury and the status of wide receiver Jahan Dotson, who is dealing with a hamstring injury, on Wednesday.

Despite not having Young up front, the Commanders’ defense has again become their leading unit. After holding the Packers to an 0-for-6 outing on third down in Week 7, Washington now has the third-lowest opponent third-down conversion rate in the league at 31.0 percent — a significant leap from the second-highest conversion rate last year.

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Washington also has the fourth-highest pressure rate (36.9 percent of opponent drop-backs), per TruMedia, and boasts three linemen — Sweat and defensive tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne — with at least 23 pressures.

Rivera lauded the communication and synchronicity of the line earlier this year, especially in comparison to last season, when players seemed more inclined to freelance. Rivera felt his defensive linemen often struggled to get home for sacks because the four were trying to create big plays individually, instead of coordinating rush games and using discipline in their rush lanes.

But Monday, Rivera said he again noticed some players, in all three phases, resorting to past behaviors.

“A couple of those things, when guys did their own thing, that hurt us,” he said. “And that’s what you got to be aware of. If you got 10 guys doing their job and one guy not, that one guy they’re going to find. You can’t have that, because that hurts. … We got fortunate winning the game because if we had lost this game, you could point directly to those instances on offense, defense, special teams, [of] guys not doing their jobs the way they’re supposed to.”

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