Chase Young's sophomore season with the Washington Football Team is off to a completely different start than how his rookie campaign began.
In 2020, Young hit the ground running. He shined in Washington's Week 1 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, recording 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble in his NFL debut. While Young played well individually, Washington as a whole struggled, as the club followed up its Week 1 win with three straight double-digit losses.
This year, it's been somewhat the opposite. Young has struggled through four games, as he's yet to record a sack and has notched just three tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Additionally, he's already been flagged for four penalties this season. However, the team's 2-2 record through four games is better than it was in 2020.
Speaking with the media on Thursday, Young admitted the team's current outlook "could be worse" with the way Jack Del Rio's defense is playing.
"We're 2-2. We're just [going to] keep grinding. 2-2, it could be worse," Young said.
Young is far from the only member of Washington's defense that has struggled. There's a reason the unit is near the bottom of every statistical category in the league just one year after finishing as a top-five defense.
What has remained constant despite early season struggles is the confidence amongst Young and his teammates on the defensive side of the ball. Safety Bobby McCain vowed earlier this week that the team would begin to play better, while Del Rio himself has remained confident that the group is close to turning things around.
One specific area where Washington's defense has significantly struggled this season is getting off the field on third down. Thus far, Washington is allowing opponents to convert at a 60% clip, by far the worst mark in the league.
Del Rio believes Washington's third-down defense is certainly the top issue right now but declared that improvement is coming. Once that happens, the defensive coordinator believes the perception of his entire unit will change.
"How people look at our defense will dramatically change as we strengthen our third-down stops. And that will happen," Del Rio said.
"It's all about production," he continued. "Bottom line is we have not started that part. I really feel like that will unlock a lot of good things for our defense. ... Get off the field on third down. That's the biggest key. We need more stops on third down is clearly a focus. We're working hard at it.”
A lack of communication between players has also been one of the main issues that have led to Washington's defensive struggles. Del Rio, Young and his teammates have admitted such earlier this season.
While it might not appear so to those on the outside, Young believes Washington's defense improved in that aspect this past weekend.
"I feel like we're flying around a little bit more," Young said. "We feel like we're flying around a little bit better. A lot better communication on the field. I'm glad right now, everybody is sticking together. Everybody has their confidence."
Although Young might feel that Washington's defense is continuing to improve, not many people will buy into what he or anyone in Ashburn says until the production backs it up. That's something Del Rio is certainly aware of.
"I think what's happening is there's a lot of talk, and you can't talk your way out of it," Del Rio said. "It doesn't really matter what I say. What we talk about is what we do know it's a production-based business. We need to play better in those areas and a lot of things will be unlocked."
As for Young, he knows he hasn't played nearly close to his best football. But even when he does start to play up to his capabilities, he doesn't plan on getting complacent, either.
"You can [always] get better. There's always something you can improve," Young said.