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Washington star Chase Young will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL

Washington defensive end Chase Young tore his ACL during the second quarter of Sunday's game against the Buccaneers. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

In a significant blow for one of the Washington Football Team’s most important young players, defensive end Chase Young will miss the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury during Sunday’s victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Coach Ron Rivera said Monday.

Young tore the ACL in his right knee, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. Rivera would only describe Young’s condition as a “leg injury.”

The loss of the 22-year-old star, a team captain who leads the players’ pregame huddle every week, is a major jolt for a squad that scored a signature win Sunday and, at 3-6, re-sparked hopes of sneaking into the postseason. Injuries decimated Washington’s offense in the first half of the season and have now come for the defense, which appeared to be regaining its footing after a poor start.

The second half was going to be particularly important for Young, the reigning defensive rookie of the year and the second pick of the 2020 draft. He had struggled to follow up on his impressive debut season, particularly in rushing the passer — his 20 quarterback pressures in the eight games that preceded his injury tied for 67th in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus — and he had a chance to reestablish himself as a disruptive force given the absence of fellow defensive end Montez Sweat, who is sidelined for several weeks with a fractured jaw.

Rivera said that he was “disappointed” to lose Young and that edge rushers with Young’s size and athleticism are “hard to find.”

“You do lose the threat of that type of player coming off the edge,” Rivera said. “You have to rally the troops, basically. That’s just the way it is.”

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In recent weeks, frustration from what has been a disappointing encore to last season’s division title seemed to spill out. Rivera was critical of Young and Sweat in an interview posted on the team’s website, saying they needed to trust their teammates. Young, responding to a general question about facing criticism, said he just had to “block out the haters” and rejected the idea that his slow start was in any way related to him skipping the team’s offseason workouts to shoot commercials.

“I’m a man at the end of the day. I can take the criticism,” Young said Thursday. “It’s a process. Everybody will talk. Just wait until down the road. Just keep watching.”

Before facing the Bucs, Rivera said Young had a “really, really good week” of practice.

“We were anxious to watch him,” Rivera added Monday. “Some good moments early in the game until he got hurt. It was promising.”

The injury happened in the second quarter as Young tried to rush around left tackle Donovan Smith. When Smith shoved him, Young’s right knee buckled and he collapsed, crawling a foot or two in obvious pain. The team brought out a cart to transport Young from the field, but he waved it away. With a team staffer under each arm, Young limped to the locker room.

Rehab will be a new challenge for Young. He has battled injuries before, such as sprained ankles at Ohio State in 2018 and a hip issue during the first 10 weeks of his rookie year, but he has never dealt with an ailment this severe. The typical recovery time for an ACL tear is six to nine months, according to the Cleveland Clinic, meaning Young could be ready for the start of the 2022 season.

In the absence of the team’s top two edge rushers, Rivera said, Washington will rely on second-year ends Casey Toohill and James Smith-Williams, as well as journeyman Bunmi Rotimi and rookie Shaka Toney. Rivera added the team is likely to elevate a defensive lineman from the practice squad — perhaps William Bradley-King or Daniel Wise — for Sunday’s game at the Carolina Panthers.

“The guys that we have have enough athleticism to continue with the outside pressure. They do,” Rivera said. “They’re guys that nobody really knows. They haven’t really had a lot of opportunities, but when you watch the tape, you see some pretty good efforts out there.”

Still, as Washington relies on backups Rivera called “more workman[-like]” than Young or Sweat, the coach acknowledged it may have to change its game plan to generate pressure. The second half Sunday, which only included 18 defensive snaps for Washington as a result of the offense’s lengthy game-sealing drive, may have provided a hint of how the team plans to do so. Coordinator Jack Del Rio called more blitzes than usual, including two on third down.

“We are going to have to blitz probably,” Rivera said. “We are going to have to do some different things, move some people in and out. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops.”

Young is scheduled to undergo surgery soon, Rivera said. The coach added that he hopes Young will go through recovery at the organization’s facility and cited team physical therapist Jeff Ruiz.

“As soon as we get in here and get the doctor’s directions and stuff like that, we can get going,” Rivera said.

The coach also noted Monday that quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick may join Young in being out for the rest of the season. Rivera said the 38-year-old, who suffered a partial hip dislocation in the season opener, has more tests coming up but that “it’s trending” toward him not returning.

These injuries were the dark cloud over an otherwise upbeat team. Following Sunday’s upset, Rivera issued the first “Victory Monday” of his tenure in Washington — a day-off reward for a hard-fought game.

“It was a pretty emotional thing for our guys,” Rivera said. “It was a big win; they had a big week.”

The players will return to practice Wednesday, but Young won’t be among them.

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