ASHBURN, Va. — Forget the stadium. Forget the (potential) sale. Forget the noise off the field. Commanders fans have had a lot to celebrate on the field in recent weeks as they ride a hot streak behind quarterback Taylor Heinecke. Now, one of their biggest puzzle pieces to continuing that streak is coming back into the fold.
Chase Young, the energizing former number two overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft was activated to the Commanders' 53-man roster Monday. The star edge rusher has been recovering from surgery following a torn ACL injury he suffered in week 10 of last season. He is now eligible to come back as early as Sunday's matchup against the Atlanta Falcons at FedEx Field.
It was a long journey for Young to be physically ready enough to be designated to return to practice almost 21 days ago.
"It was tough. I ain't gonna say it wasn't tough," Young said. "Obviously, it was the first serious injury I've had. Every day, it's a slow grind. Real slow."
The pass rusher has been an emotional leader in the locker room, on the sidelines and a fan favorite since he was drafted more than two years ago. That energy has caused some anxiety in getting him back on the field as quickly as possible. But Head Coach Ron Rivera says the team will have a measured approach to bringing their leader back.
"It'll be a pitch count," Rivera said. "It'll be a pitch count and something we'll have to monitor closely." A pitch count refers to how many plays Young will be in the game. Regardless of how quickly the team ramps up his involvement, he will be joining an already scary top-10 defensive line that has come into form during the team's recent victories.
Defensive linemen Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, and Montez Sweat led the team's push up front against Houston Sunday, ending with five sacks in the win on the road. The team's 29 sacks on the season rank 10th in the NFL and Young is only going to make the position group stronger.
The Commanders have won five of their last six games and sit at a 6-5 record on the season. The turnaround from their underwhelming 1-4 start when Carson Wentz was at the helm has them in a prime position for a playoff push for the first time since the 2020 season.