The Washington Commanders reportedly will be without one of their better defensive players when they start their season against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, with star defensive end Chase Young in danger of missing even more time because of a neck injury.
“Washington Commanders’ Chase Young will not play in Sunday’s regular-season opener with a neck injury that may cause the defensive end to miss additional games, according to multiple people familiar with the situation,” wrote Ben Standig of The Athletic.
Young was aiming to play but could not get final clearance. He suffered a stinger in the Commanders’ first preseason game almost one month ago and has been a limited participant in practices since then.
The Ohio State University product was named the 2020 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year after he was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft behind Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.
Young had 7.5 sacks as a rookie but has played only 12 games with 1.5 sacks since then. He tore his ACL midway through the 2021 campaign and did not return until Week 16 of last season.
Washington did not pick up the fifth-year option on Young’s contract, which means he is set to become a free agent after this season. Returning to the form he showed as a rookie could help him land a big new contract, but this latest injury is not a good start.
The Commanders are favored and should be able to handle the Cardinals and quarterback Joshua Dobbs on Sunday without Young, but they most certainly will need the 24-year-old at close to top form if they hope to challenge the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants in the very competitive NFC East.
Washington has not won a playoff game since the 2005 NFL season and made the playoffs just four times since then. It did manage to win the division in the 2020 campaign but did so with a 7-9 record.
The Commanders this offseason were sold to a group led by Josh Harris, who also is an owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils. The $6.05 billion sale, the highest for a North American sports franchise, ended the tumultuous tenure of former owner Dan Snyder and seems to have reinvigorated the team’s loyal fan base.
One of Harris’ most important upcoming decisions could be what to do about re-signing Young after this season. But the young star needs to be healthy enough to get on the field to make that a serious consideration.