Chase Young

New 49er Chase Young healthy again while resuming large workload

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Chase Young’s career began — as planned — with a Pro Bowl selection and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.

That's just what the Washington Commanders envisioned from the defensive end, whom they selected No. 2 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, ahead of quarterbacks Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa.

But everything changed the following November.

On a routine play on which he tried to turn the right edge in pursuit of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, Young’s right knee gave out, and he went down with a torn ACL. He didn't get back on the field for more than a year, making his return on Dec. 24, 2022, against the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium.

Now, Young will call Levi’s Stadium home for the remainder of the 2023 season after the 49ers acquired him at Tuesday's NFL trade deadline from Washington for a third-round “special compensatory” draft pick.

“There’s preliminary medical stuff, where they send medical files and all that,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said in a conference call Wednesday morning. “And the last step is him flying out here today and doing the actual physical. Hope all that goes well, but it sure looks like he’s been healthy, based on what he’s been doing on the field.”

Only now does Young appear to be back from the devastating knee injury, complex surgery and physical therapy.

After being inactive for Week 1 this season because of a neck condition, Young has averaged 58 snaps per game over the past seven weeks. He played a high of 75 plays from scrimmage in the Commanders’ Week 6 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

“Those are a lot of snaps,” Lynch said. “I think the proof is in what’s translating on the field. He’s been playing a lot and looking really good.”

Young ranks fifth in the NFL in quarterback pressures, according to Zebra Technologies' on-field tracking. He's only one pressure behind Nick Bosa, with whom he played at Ohio State and now joins along the 49ers’ defensive line.

Young also has generated a career-best 17.2 percent pressure rate while registering five sacks this season.

Young’s surgery was more involved than a typical ACL repair because part of his left patellar tendon was grafted to repair the damage to his right knee. He totaled 115 snaps over the final three games of last season after returning and didn't record a sack.

Because of the serious concerns over his long-term health, the Commanders declined to pick up his fifth-year contract option for the 2025 season, which means he will be scheduled for unrestricted free agency in March. Still, the 49ers plan to rely heavily on Young over the final nine regular-season games in order to make a bid at the NFC West title and, perhaps, a deep playoff run.

Young fits into the 49ers’ defensive line opposite Bosa, who played all 61 defensive snaps Sunday in the 49ers’ 31-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Up to this point, Bosa and Clelin Ferrell have started every game at defensive end for San Francisco.

The 49ers acquired defensive end Randy Gregory from the Denver Broncos in an Oct. 6 trade, and over the past three games, he has replaced Drake Jackson as the 49ers’ top nickel pass rusher. Now, Young has arrived to seemingly move everybody, except Bosa, one spot down the depth chart.

The 49ers don't view Young just as a pass-rush specialist, though. He might be able to help the team's run defense, too.

“We think Chase is a complete player,” Lynch said.

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