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5 questions with Hogs Haven about Chase Young: Why the 49ers are the ideal landing spot

While some Commanders’ fans believe immaturity was an issue, Young will be motivated in the Bay Area

Washington Commanders v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Who is Chase Young? Who better to answer that question than Bill Horgan of Hogs Haven. Without further ado, let’s find out more about the 49ers newest edge rusher.

1) What’s the most impressive part about Young’s game?

There’s not been much impressive about Young since his rookie season ended.

He has continually struggled to adapt to the NFL since the conclusion of his DROY season in 2020 when he played with explosive enthusiasm.

In college, he was able to dominate through superior athleticism, but as a pro, he’s on the field with his physical equals and is frequently controlled by offensive linemen who have superior technique.

His most common failing in the 9 games he played pre-injury in 2021 was rushing too far upfield and simply being pushed behind the quarterback, losing gap integrity and opening lanes for the QB to throw or simply tuck the ball and run. As recently as the Eagles game in Week 8 this season, he was still doing this; he opened up a lane on a 3rd down rush in the 1st quarter that allowed Jalen Hurts to sprint 7 yards for a first down.

He also freelances frequently, by, for example, rushing inside and attacking the same gap as Jon Allen and making the job really easy for the offensive line. It’s been a puzzling fact that, for the past 3 seasons (‘21-’23) the Washington defense has consistently been more effective when Chase was off the field than when he was on it.

Many people attribute this to CY’s apparent unwillingness or inability to play within the scheme — to follow the mantra of ‘do your job’. The coaches seemed frustrated by his apparent immaturity in 2021 and his failure to play within the scheme in 2023.

After a poor 2021 campaign that ended in a serious injury, and an unhealthy 2022 that saw him limp through 3 games before he was fully ready to return, Chase has played better in 2023, but he has been inconsistent in his play and hasn’t exhibited any of the kind of leadership you would expect from a guy with his draft pedigree.

2) Young had plenty of juice pre-injury. Is he still as good of a pass rusher as his pressure and sack numbers would suggest?

It was clear in the 3 games that he played to close out the ‘22 season that the knee wasn’t right and Chase wasn’t confident in it.

This season has been different; physically, he looks strong and explosive. He certainly hasn’t been a dominating game-wrecker that he was expected to be coming out of college, but he looks to be healthy and confident in the knee.

3) Did Young live up to his lofty draft status as a true #1 edge rusher, who was he always playing second fiddle to Montez Sweat?

Young had a promising start to his career as a rookie, winning DROY honors.

Young never played ‘second fiddle’ to Sweat. CY always had the higher profile and greater expectations, but, since the start of the 2021 season, Young had mostly been out injured (he played 12 games in 2 seasons in ‘21-’22) while Sweat had been mostly healthy (he had a broken jaw, and missed a game when his brother was killed during the season).

This season, with Chase Young healthy, Sweat has been both steadier and more productive, though a big consideration for Washington in its roster planning was that Sweat is 27 and nearer to the end of his productive years than the beginning, while Young is 24 with a lot of upside potential.

Prior to the trade, despite playing one less game, Chase Young had played more snaps (407 for Young; 377 for Sweat). Yet, even though Montez Sweat had played 30 fewer snaps, he was actually out-producing his counterpart. Consider this comparison from Pro Football Reference.

Sweat had more tackles, more QB hits, more tackles for loss, more sacks and more forced fumbles than did Chase Young. In short, Sweat has been healthier than CY and outplayed him in every season except Chase’s rookie season of 2020.

Chase, however, has continued to enjoy a much higher national profile due to his pre-draft evaluations and electric rookie season. NFL fans outside the NFC East probably don’t see Washington play much, and so, outside of the Washington fan base and the division, Young is seen as the top player on Washington’s defense — an impression that is reinforced every time a Washington game is broadcast on TV as the announcers always focus on Young as the team’s defensive star.

To answer your question clearly: no, CY hasn’t lived up to his ‘lofty draft status’ since the end of his rookie season. He has ranged from pedestrian to quite good, but he has not dominated an opponent or wrecked a game in the past three seasons.

4) Were Commanders fans sad to see Young go? What were their feelings on his tenure in Washington?

Washington fans are rarely united on any opinion, and that’s true of CY as well. I’d say about half of the fan base were happy to see the back of Young and about half believe that we will all regret the decision to part ways with him as his career plays out.

One contentious issue was Young’s decision to forgo all voluntary offseason workouts in 2021 (his 2nd year in the league). When he finally showed up for mandatory minicamp, CY flippantly told reporters that he’d been taking care of his money (he’d been shooting some commercials and such). I was among the many fans who felt that since he’d skipped voluntary workouts, there was nothing to complain about as long as he showed up ready to play.

The problem was that he didn’t really do that. In the 9 games he played in 2021 before tearing his ACL, he produced just 1.5 sacks and 4 QB hits. He was constantly being run out of plays (as I mentioned above) and he looked more like a backup than a starter.

To his critics, Young seems immature and lacking in leadership because of things like his on-field freelancing and his offseason business decisions in 2021. Many fans pointed to Young being named a captain in 2021 and the need for him to provide more leadership.

He was NOT named a captain this season — Jonathan Allen and Kendall Fuller were named captains of the defense. This might provide a small insight to how the former 2nd-overall pick was perceived coming into this season.

The half of the fan base that are sad to see him go think the organization gave up on him too soon and for too little compensation. Those fans would say that the team is giving up on him just when his career is about to take off. He’s healthy for the first time since the middle of the 2021 season, and he’s 24 years old. The team should, in the view of that half of the fan base, be building around the guy that was drafted to be the cornerstone of the franchise for the decade of the ‘20s.

One issue that we’d known about for a long time was the fact that the team couldn’t afford to pay both Sweat and Young and that one would go (I don’t think anyone expected the team to trade them both), so the discussion had been long and ongoing, and fan opinions had become deeply entrenched.

I think that what no fan can judge is whether CY wanted to be here. Personally, I don’t think he did. I believe that his relationship with the coaching staff had deteriorated over time, and he was ready to move on.

As a fan base, we lived through an ugly 3 seasons when the front office forced Kirk Cousins to stay when he clearly wanted to leave. San Francisco got a steal when they traded to acquire Trent Williams in 2020 when he clearly wanted to leave (although for very different reasons).

I think the situation between the team and Young was headed in that same direction, but with new owners, rational decision-making seems to have kicked in sooner, and the team sold at a point at which they could get some compensation and a graceful exit for the player. This doesn’t get talked about much, but I suspect it was a driving factor in CY’s ‘forced’ departure from the team — I think he wanted to go and was quite happy to be traded away from a coaching staff that didn’t really believe in him anymore.

In our recent Reacts question, 51 percent of fans said they would have accepted the trade offer from San Francisco, while 49 percent of fans said they would have declined the trade offer.

5) Do you believe, even if he’s a rental, Young is worthy of a 3rd round pick playing alongside Nick Bosa?

I think the 3rd round comp pick was exactly the right compensation for this trade, and I don’t think the Niners can be unhappy about it, however things turn out.

As you guys already know, if CY plays 8 or 9 games and leaves, the 49ers probably end up getting a 2025 3rd round comp pick in return.

If he signs a long-term deal, then that’s probably a ‘win’, though I doubt whether y’all can afford to pay two edge defenders any more than we could have (maybe you can, I don’t know). Because Washington has never tagged Chase, the option is there to tag him and play him or tag him and trade him, and your front office seems savvy enough to figure that out.

Personally, I think SF is the ideal landing spot for Chase Young because of Nick Bosa. They were teammates in college, and Chase seems to defer to Bosa as the ‘big brother’.

On most NFL teams that might’ve traded for a guy like Chase, he would’ve had to come in and be the guy that Washington expected him to be when he was drafted — the big dawg. For the 49ers, he joins a strong defense and an already-good defensive line, and he can, for the first time in his pro career, actually play second-fiddle to a better edge player that he respects from their time together at Ohio State.

My guess is that Chase Young will have both the opportunity and the motivation to be a better teammate and to play within the scheme. As with the Trent Williams trade, I imagine that CY’s performance in San Fran is gonna make Washington’s front office look stupid, but, also like the Trent Williams situation, I don’t think there was any real future together for the player and the Washington coaches/front office. Hopefully, this will give Chase the opportunity to reset his career and get it back on track.