By Anthony Licciardi
Is there any team better at underperforming expectations than the Washington Commanders? They’ve had seven wins in four of the last five years, falling to three victories in the middle of that span. Their stadium is falling apart, their owner is under investigation, and their rebrand redefined the bare minimum.
At least they have Chase Young, right?
Well, kind of. The edge rusher possesses otherworldly talent, but has yet to put it all together for Washington. His 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles were not quite what head coach Ron Rivera had in mind from his former No. 2 pick. Worst of all, his season was cut short before Thanksgiving after tearing his ACL.
When will Chase Young play again?
The next rendition of the Commanders offense will feature yet another questionable veteran quarterback. Carson Wentz struggled mightily at times last year, holding the Indianapolis Colts back from playoff contention. Now, he’ll be tasked with taking Washington to late January football.
It’s safe to say that’s not happening without a big year from Washington’s defense.
Young is their most important player on that side of the ball, but remains their biggest question mark. Rivera recently told reporters that Young is on schedule, though he will miss the beginning of the regular season.
It is yet to be seen whether or not he’ll start the year on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, which would hold him out for four games. Unfortunately the Commanders don’t have an early bye.
Keeping Washington afloat likely means returning before the team’s Week 7 matchup with the Green Bay Packers, which kicks off a difficult stretch of the schedule. In the meantime, James Smith-Williams and Shaka Toney will look to provide ample reinforcements.
Young’s absence may have been understated due to the talent on the Commanders’ line, including Jonathan Allen, Montez Sweat, and Daron Payne. Last year, they weren’t enough to mask poor secondary play. They hobbled to a 4-4 record without Young, somehow improving from their otherwise 3-6 performance.
That secondary didn’t get much better during the offseason. Needing an explosive defense to remain competitive, a big year from Young and company up front is paramount to their success. A late start to the season could leave Washington vulnerable to, you guessed it, underperforming once again.
Beating teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit Lions, and Chicago Bears early in the season will be significant in their hopes to make the playoffs (+150 on DraftKings). Without their star, it’s all too easy to fade the Commanders.