It was the first defensive third down of the season, and the Philadelphia Eagles were deep in Washington territory. Moments such as these — the opportunity to close out an opponent’s drive — were a big reason the team drafted Chase second overall this spring. But Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, a fifth-year veteran, suspected the rookie might be eager to prove himself, so he yelled urgently, pretending to call for the snap.
Chase jumped. He went against the point his father had specifically made earlier this week: Don’t listen to the cadence; watch the ball. On TV, Greg saw Chase’s body tense, frustrated by the penalty that gave Philadelphia a first down. Greg is not shy about how hard he coaches Chase, believing it is a large part of the reason they’re here, and he knows his critiques have become his son’s inner monologue.
“I tell people: ‘I’m not his fan. I’m his father,’” Greg said.
Though he wouldn’t say the penalty was good for Chase, Greg thought the early adversity helped him focus in Washington’s 27-17 comeback victory.
“I know at that moment that he could hear my voice,” Greg said of the penalty. “If I were there [like normal], it’d be one of those things where he’d look up at me in the stands, and I’d have my two palms up, like, ‘What’s going on?’”
Chase agreed. Soon after the flag, he said, he started using his hands more, utilizing better technique. Greg watched with his brother and a few others from the low-key living room in Cheltenham, Md., as his son ascended to the moment: four tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
“I made a lot of mistakes out there, and I can be better,” Chase said afterward. “That’s really where my head’s at right now.”
In Washington’s win, the depth of the defensive line impressed Greg. One of Chase’s mentors, Ryan Kerrigan, recorded two sacks to set the franchise record (92), and one of his closest teammates, Montez Sweat, added another to the team’s total of eight — the franchise’s best mark in a single game since 2014. The most amazing part, to Greg, was that he watched the game feet from Chase’s childhood bedroom, which is still painted midnight green and covered in Eagles gear, including posters, blankets and curtains. His son started his career by beating the team for whom he had always wanted to play.
For about a week before the game, Greg struggled to sleep. He worried about not being there to give his son a thumbs up or down after each series. He worried about the 21-year-old facing veteran linemen with “grown-man strength.” He worried about the expectations. For months, his phone had buzzed and buzzed and buzzed, with people wanting to know: How’s Chase?
“It was like everybody in the DMV was waiting on this,” Greg said. “It’s good, but it’s hard.”
Greg didn’t tell anyone in the family he was nervous. He, like his son, prefers to play it cool. Instead, Greg thought about small steps — “Let’s just get through the first quarter” — and how his son has always responded in big games. On Sunday, as the cameras focused on Chase on the sideline, he felt pride — his son had accomplished his dream — as well as the anxiety of being a parent.
“Mentally, I’m out there with him,” he said. “Every down, every jump shot, every dunk, every sack — I was always there. I’m there now. I’m nervous.”
Shortly after the penalty, Washington subbed in Kerrigan for Chase. Greg perked up. He knew this was a spark. If Greg were there — and it hurt him not to be — he would’ve flashed Chase one of his hand signals, a thumbs down.
When Chase reentered, he flashed a pretty move, spinning out of a double team to record a strip-sack.
“Thumbs up,” Greg said. “That’s like, ‘Hey, you did good. You got room for improvement.’”
Later, in the fourth quarter, Chase didn’t get past left tackle Jason Peters, but he pushed him back far enough to see Wentz slide by. Chase turned and helped sack the Eagles quarterback, who fumbled again, and Kerrigan recovered the ball to secure Washington’s victory. After the game, Chase called Kerrigan “the best to ever do it,” a title he has set his sights on for himself.
For Greg, Sunday was close to perfect. Chase showed he was worth the hype but hadn’t set an unreachable standard. There were thumbs-down plays to review, plenty of technique to clean up. But Greg believes what he always has, that Chase will only get better. Before the game, he predicted his son would finish this season with 13 sacks and an award for defensive rookie of the year. Afterward, he debated whether he should increase his prediction on sacks.
Still, Greg said he plans to treat his son the same way he always has, watching only Chase on each play to spot something helpful. It’s harder in quarantine, when he doesn’t know when he’ll see Chase next, but he said he thinks it is necessary. The approach has worked so far.
“I wish I could see him,” Greg said. “But I can still get my point across over the phone.”
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