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The truth about the intensified pressure with Chase Young and Ron Rivera

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The problem isn’t strictly missed OTAs and the problem isn’t strictly chip blocks either.

The problem is underperformance. By many.

Through eight games and an increasingly fed-up collection of players and coaches, arguably the two biggest stars in the Washington Football universe appear to be having their first public spat.

Ron Rivera wants more out of Chase Young, and it seems like Young would like to hear less criticism from Rivera.

Nobody is totally wrong here, but nobody is totally right either.

The minor dustup started with some Rivera comments during the bye week via the Washington Football Team website. Let's be clear that any Rivera comments that land on the team's site are not done by accident. It's the team's site. 

"We would like to see a little bit more from those guys," Rivera said of Young and Montez Sweat. "They need to stop pressing and trust their teammates."

Rivera continued, pointing out specific technical flaws in Young's game.

"Sometimes Chase starts outside and plants his leg and cuts inside -- because he's trying to make a play -- and the quarterback gets flushed to the outside. If Chase stays outside, he has an easy sack, but instead he dives underneath," the coach explained. 

Surface level, that's hardly a haymaker. It's just explaining a technical flaw a coach sees in a player. Digging deeper, however, and Rivera has been making veiled criticism of Young for some time, particularly on the matter of maturity.

 

On Thursday Young responded to what some might consider mounting criticism of his less than stellar 2021 season. 

"I don’t feel any pressure. I don’t hear people," Young said. "At the end of the day, anybody who talks about you are just haters. You gotta block out the haters."

Well for a player of Young's celebrity it's smart to ignore the considerable noise that encapsulates his life. Between social media and hot take analysts, Young catches a lot of heat. 

At the same time, however, Young can't consider all criticism as unfair. And shouldn't be blocking out coaching. 

Young needs more production. Period.

The first half of the 2021 season has been disappointing, and whether it’s totally his fault, the entire defensive unit's fault or the coaching staff's fault, Young has way too much talent to register just 1.5 sacks and 16 hurries in eight games.

At the same time Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio deserve criticism too.

What happened from last season to this one? How can a defense look so aggressive and fast to the ball in 2020, and then with a full offseason of coaching and team activities, the scheme falls apart?

Washington's defense is giving up nearly 390 yards-per-game, good for 30th in the NFL. There are only 32 teams. 

Washington's defense is giving up more than 28 points-per-game, good for 29th in the NFL. There are only 32 teams. 

Last season Washington's defense finished the year ranked 2nd in the NFL in yards allowed and 4th in points allowed. The defensive change from 2020 to 2021 is best described as outright collapse. 

There are more stats, advanced ones and simple ones, that show the erosion of Washington's defense, and the lack of offensive firepower doesn't help the defense either. 

The truth about Rivera, Young and the entire Washington 2021 season: It's been a major disappointment. 

That's not on any one person. It's on all of them.

On Sunday, Rivera, Young and Washington have an opportunity to get their season back on track as Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to FedEx Field. 

A win seems unlikely but a strong defensive performance could help stem the tide of internal discord.

Unfortunately in Washington, no matter how hard the organization tries to cleanse itself, dysfunction and disagreement appear to rule the day. 

What happens off the field, and perhaps in the halls of Congress, is far beyond Young and Rivera's control. 

On the field, between the lines, Young and Rivera still have time to frame a different picture for this lost season.