It's hardly a stretch to say Chase Young's career arc, thus far, is eerily similar to Nick Bosa's.
Both Young and Bosa were standout pass rushers at Ohio State. The two were teammates for two seasons before Bosa entered the 2019 NFL Draft, where he was selected No. 2 overall by the San Francisco 49ers. Young took over as the Buckeyes' top pass rusher that fall and was named a Heisman Trophy finalist before he, too, was selected second overall in the 2020 Draft by the Washington Football Team.
It doesn't end there, either. Both Bosa (2019) and Young (2020) were named Defensive Rookie of the Year in consecutive seasons, helping lead their respective teams to playoff berths. The entering Year 2, both players had extraordinarily high expectations before having their respective seasons cut short due to season-ending ACL injuries.
While Young will miss the remainder of the 2021 season after having knee surgery last month, the 22-year-old can look to his former college teammate as a blueprint for his comeback season.
Bosa has been exceptional for the 49ers this season in his post-ACL campaign and has played his way into the Defensive Player of the Year conversation. He's been dominant as of late, too, as he's notched eight sacks in his past six games. Bosa's 15 sacks on the season are tied with Myles Garrett for the third-most in the NFL, just 2.5 sacks behind T.J. Watt for the league lead.
“I try to stay out of these conversations because I have a biased opinion, but looking at the NFL right now, who would you take over Nick Bosa?” former Washington and current 49ers tackle Trent Williams said earlier this week. “I feel like he is playing some of the best football in the NFL right now from the edge position."
Although the similarities between the two pass rushers are strikingly similar, there is one main difference: the time each player tore their ACL. Bosa injured his knee in Week 2 of the 2020 season, while Young played into mid-November before injuring his in Week 10. That might not seem like a big deal now, but it certainly is one when looking at recovery time.
It's different for every person, but full recovery from an ACL injury typically takes anywhere between eight to 12 months. Since Bosa tore his ACL so early into the 2020 campaign, he was able to almost fully recover from the injury prior to training camp beginning the 2021 season. After taking it slow returning to football activities during OTAs and training camp, Bosa began the 2021 season playing a high snap percentage and has not looked back since.
For Young, it'll be more difficult of a challenge to return to full strength prior to next season. Young underwent surgery on Nov. 27, meaning eight months from the procedure will be the end of July, right when camp is set to begin. It's highly likely Young will be limited to begin camp and perhaps the beginning of the 2022 season, which could lead to a slow start next year.
Additionally, it's worth noting that Young was having an overall underwhelming season prior to his injury. Through nine games, Young had recorded just 1.5 sacks, three tackles for loss and four QB hits. Those were not the numbers Washington or the pass rusher himself were expecting entering 2021.
Now, though, the 2021 season is in the past for Young. He'll have a clean slate in 2022, once again having expectations of being a major contributor on Washington's defense. And, while this past fall did not go the way Young expected or wanted, the experience he had prior to his injury should be invaluable.
For as good of a season as Bosa has had -- and Bosa has been exceptional this season -- there's little reason to think Young can't turn in similar results when he returns to the field in 2022.
Physically speaking, Young is just as strong as Bosa and before his injury, was faster than him as well. Sure, one could argue Young's technique might not be as good as Bosa's, but that's something Washington's pass rusher should be able to improve on now that he's had more experience.
Following Young's injury, Bosa reached out to his former teammate immediately after the injury and offered him words of encouragement.
“I kind of just talked to him once on FaceTime right after it happened,” Bosa said. “I just told him he’s going to be fine. It’s going to be a long process and it can be lonely sometimes. But he’s , he’ll be fine."
At one time, suffering an ACL tear was considered career-altering for many athletes. Now, though, the timeline for recovery has sped up. Dozens and dozens of players recover from it each year and sometimes return even stronger than before.
Young, who turns 23 on April 14, has his entire career still in front of him. And, he doesn't have to look very far to see an example of a player returning even better post-injury than they were before.