Rivera feels Young's injury-riddled 2021 campaign an ‘awakening'


The hype surrounding Chase Young entering the 2021 season was hard to quantify. The 22-year-old was coming off an epic rookie season and had been considered one of the leading candidates to compete for the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award.

However, Young's second NFL campaign did not go as he or the team would have hoped. The pass rusher struggled to begin the year and finished with just 1.5 sacks in nine games before suffering a season-ending ACL tear in Week 10.

Speaking with local media on Tuesday at the NFL's annual league meetings in Florida, head coach Ron Rivera believes Young's disappointing sophomore year was a little bit of a wake-up call for him.

"I think for Chase, it was a little bit of an awakening, a little bit of a realization," Rivera said.

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Part of the reason Young's second season was considered disappointing was that even before the injury, No. 99 simply just wasn't as impactful as he was the year prior.

Young won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2020 and was named the league's Defensive Player of the Month in December that season. Young ended his rookie campaign as one of the best defensive players in all of football. That type of impact, plus a full offseason of training, is why many thought he would take that Year 2 leap and become one of the most dominant defensive players in the entire NFL.

Last summer, Young made headlines as he was one of the few players absent for the entirety of Washington's voluntary OTAs. Although it was technically optional, over 90% of the roster was present for the workout sessions. Rivera could not fault Young for opting out of attending the workouts, but he even admitted he wished the pass rusher would have shown up.

"You'd love to have everybody here, especially because we've got 86 guys [here]," Rivera said last May. "It'd be nice to have everybody. But I get it. Guys are entitled to do the things they feel they need to do right now. They're both good, young, solid football players and the thing is, they'll be here when they're here."

So, when Young did struggle to start the 2021 season, many pointed to his absence at offseason workouts as a reason why. 

On Tuesday, Rivera said he's been in contact with Young throughout the offseason and believes the former Ohio State star will be in attendance for this year's offseason workouts.

"In my conversations with him, he said he's going to be here and I'm pretty excited to see him here," Rivera said.

Young -- who missed out on voluntary OTAs last year in part to grow his personal brand by shooting Mercedes commercials and to make an appearance on Family Feud -- has maintained a relatively low profile during his rehab. He's barely been active on social media, either.

In conversations with Young, Rivera has been pleased with how focused the pass rusher has been on getting back to 100% health.

"One thing I really appreciate is how focused he is right now," Rivera said. "He truly really is attacking his offseason, his rehab program. I think that's been good."

After winning the NFC East in 2020, Rivera believes last season was a wake-up call for the entire squad that they have yet to arrive. The head coach has been adamant about wanting to take a big leap this season and believes the franchise can learn plenty from its shortcomings in 2021.

"For us, I hope that the realization that we hadn't arrived has set in and that just showing up is not good enough," Rivera said.

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