What Merriman wants to see from Chase Young in Year 2 originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
There wasn’t much more you could’ve asked of Chase Young during his rookie year.
He was a Day 1 starter, quickly became Washington’s best defensive lineman and helped spark a late-season run that got his team to the playoffs for the first time in five years. Young was then awarded Defensive Rookie of the Year, further cementing his place as one of the league’s best young defensive players.
But there’s still more work to do for him to simply become one of the best defensive players in football. In former Maryland and Chargers star Shawne Merriman’s eyes, adding more elements to his game will take Young to the next level.
“I think we’re only really seeing the beginning of what Chase Young really can do,” Merriman told Brian Mitchell and JP Finlay on 106.7 The Fan. “The biggest thing I want to see Chase Young do is take that Year 1 and convert it to Year 2. Change up his game a little bit because he’s going to be targeted more, people know about it. He’s going to be double-teamed, they’re going to slide-protect, chip off the edge, and I want to see if he’s still going to compete at that same level when that happens.”
Merriman knows full well how defenses adjust to dominant pass rushers like Young. He was one of them as a Defensive Rookie of the Year with the Chargers, tallying 10 sacks and two forced fumbles as a rookie in 2005.
But the next year, he was even better. He led the league with 17 sacks, forced five fumbles and even got involved in coverage with a career-high eight passes defended and an interception.
“One thing that I’ll never forget from my time in Buffalo and getting the chance to work with Bruce Smith while I was there, he said, ‘Shawne, sacks come in bunches,'” Merriman said. “I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘Well, as a great player, people figure you out. They figure that we need to put two people in, we need to chip off the edge. So you’re going to go one, two, three games, maybe without a sack, so you need to start ripping about three and two sacks at a time.’
“So what I want to see Chase Young do is throw a little something extra in his repertoire where he’s not just kind of rushing inside or rushing outside or rushing down the middle. I want to see him being able to get into space a little bit to show that he can possibly drop into coverage or maybe cover a running back out to the flat and he’s not coming every single play.”
Along with his contributions as a pass rusher and stopping the run, if Young can hold his own in coverage, that could be his path to a Defensive Player of the Year award in Year 2. Merriman might not want to see it happen against his Chargers in Week 1, but the talent Washington has on the defensive line could open things up for the young phenom.
“If he’s able to do that and Montez Sweat and those other guys are up front to provide that pressure, he’s no longer going to be double-teamed because they have a tremendous front with multiple people who can make plays at any given time,” Merriman said.