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Ranking the NFC East 2020 “SNEAK PEEK” - a film breakdown of the Predator, Chase Young

The second overall pick of the draft should complete a defensive front that could be the best in the league in 2020

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 28 CFP Semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl - Clemson v Ohio State Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Every off-season in recent memory, Hogs Haven has expanded our world view from beyond the Redskins roster in an effort to be more educated about the entire NFC East division in a series called Ranking the NFC East, which takes a position-by-position look at the top handful of players in the division.

Click here to see the Ranking the NFC East articles from 2018 & 2019

The Ranking the NFC East series, which will officially kick off later this month, will be chock-full of film breakdowns like this one, along with commentary on the division’s position groups, for readers who are more than just Redskins fans, but are fans of the NFL.

“Sneak Peek”

This year, the Edge Rusher installment of that series includes a film breakdown of the Redskins’ top pick, considered by most observers to be the best player in the 2020 draft class, Ohio State’s Chase Young, with analysis from our very own Andrew York. We thought it might be fun to get a look at the kind of analysis that Andrew has put together on players from across the NFC East by releasing this early look at what the addition of Young could mean to the Redskins defense

Andrew is a self-taught film analyst with a pretty impressive resume. He has a PhD in Experimental Particle Physics and has spent several years doing research with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, and now does R&D work as a US government contractor. He is now using that analytical brain to help analyze some of the top players in the NFC East, with today’s target being part of the Redskins’ newest draft class. Ohio State football fans called him “The Predator”.

Let’s see if we can see why in The Film Room - Andrew’s Analysis.

Chase Young, Washington Redskins

Chase Young was a top 10 overall prospect coming out of high school and played 12 games as a true freshman at Ohio State, garnering 19 tackles (5.0 for loss) and 3.5 sacks. He was elevated to a feature role his sophomore year and recorded 34 tackles (14.5 for loss) and 10.5 sacks as well as earning second-team All-Big Ten accolades. He truly broke out his junior year (2019) with 46 tackles (21.0 for loss) and 16.5 sacks. Not only was his sack total the highest in the nation, it broke the Ohio State single season record of 14.0 sacks. This is particularly impressive considering he was suspended 2 games for borrowing money in order to fly his girlfriend out to the previous year’s Rose Bowl.

The consistent and dramatic rise in production over every year of his college career indicates an ascending player, and it’s no surprise the Redskins drafted him 2nd overall in the 2020 NFL draft.

The first thing that stands out when watching film of Chase Young from last year is that teams game-planned around him from the very beginning of the season. He was double teamed in almost every play (sometimes triple teamed) and the moment a team made the mistake of leaving him with a 1-on-1 matchup, he made them pay with a pressure, tackle for loss, or a sack.

I don’t know how to convey this sentiment properly for people who haven’t watched his college games, but the closest I can compare it to for Redskins fans is the level of game-planning that went into playing Lawrence Taylor. Yet, despite 2 missed games and that level of effort spent finding ways to stop him, Chase still managed to break the Ohio State sack record!

What makes Chase so dangerous? He has an explosive first step.

He’s not only one of the first players to react to the snap, but he’s also able to accelerate to full speed faster than any player his size should.

He has very good bend around the edge, meaning he can keep his balance while leaning into a turn in order to turn at a very sharp angle while running around an OT, which allows him to get to the QB in as few steps as possible.

He has excellent use of hands, keeping his hands down and out of reach unless he needs them, but using them effectively to drive a blocker back with punches to the chest or quickly swiping away the punch attempts of a blocker to prevent him from gaining any leverage.

Chase is a very good tackler (with good tackle radius) and once he gets hands on a ball-carrier, that player is going down.

He is also very precise about attacking the hand holding the football, causing 7 forced fumbles last year alone.

What’s more, Chase always seems to have a pass rush plan based on the initial look of the offense. If the offense leaves a TE to help chip outside, Chase will go inside or bull rush to avoid the chip. If the offense doesn’t give obvious outside help to the LT, Chase will bend outside to avoid possible double teams inside from the nearest guard. Some recent online film breakdowns of Chase brought up concern that Chase is a one-trick pony because he rushes outside so often, but when I was watching him, it seemed clear that the reason he did this was to avoid inside OT/OG double teams (which he gets all the time).

Ohio State vs Cincinnati, all Chase Young plays | CFB 2019 on YouTube

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 4, 2020

[0:38] This play is really Chase Young in a nutshell. Chase lines up outside the LT. As soon as the ball is snapped, both the LT and LG turn Chase’s direction and it’s clear they intend to double team him.

Chase sets them up by faking a bullrush at the LT to freeze him in place, but as soon as he engages with the LT, he swipes away his hands, sidesteps outside, and turns and sinks his hips to bend around the edge. Not only has the LT lost the hand fight and lost leverage (he can only attack Chase’s side and back as he runs around), but Chase is effectively using the LT as a shield against the LG.

The LT lunges desperately, practically falling on Chase’s back as he runs around (which I think is an uncalled penalty, though hard to tell from this angle), but Chase doesn’t break stride and shoots right to the QB, getting the sack. This is particularly impressive when you consider the LT knows his job is to contain the edge in the double team, so his #1 priority is to get outside and funnel Chase to the LG. But Chase comes up with a plan to freeze him in place and bends around him so fast that the LT has been defeated before he knows what’s going on.

Not only does Chase show all the physical traits you’d want (explosion, bend, power, and balance) and great technique with his hands, but he also puts together a good pass rush plan that helps him avoid the double team. I think this is the reason Chase uses an outside rush so often, because he is trying to avoid a double team by the LG (which happens more times than not).

Chase Young does have a few weaknesses.

He can lose track of the ball and become susceptible to fakes (particularly QB keepers).

He is not very reactive as a pass rusher in that he seems to decide what he’s going to do pre-snap, but is slow to react to post-snap developments that suggest a different plan is better.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 4, 2020

[1:15] I wanted to show this play because one of the few flaws in Chase’s game is that he sometimes doesn’t do a good job keeping track of the ball and is susceptible to fakes like this.

The starting alignment looks as if the TE is aligned to help the LT by chipping Chase. But after the snap, both the TE and LT run past Chase, leaving him unblocked. This should have set off alarms for Chase, but he’s too concerned with tackling the RB. He pursues to the opposite side, only to realize it was a fake handoff and the QB kept the ball, running through Chase’s previous position for the first down.

Given that this play required the OL to block every DL except Chase and the RB ran away from Chase just to lure him out of position, I think this entire play was designed around neutralizing Chase schematically. This was simply one of many examples of plays designed around Chase Young.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 4, 2020

[2:32] This play shows Chase’s tackle radius and ability to set the edge.

I think there must have been a missed assignment here, because Chase is left unblocked and the RB runs towards him, which is a bad idea. Perhaps wary from the previous fake, Chase takes a hot second to make sure the QB isn’t keeping the ball, but once he identifies the ball carrier, he stops and reaches out with his long arms to wrap him up, sealing the edge.

Chase is overall above average (though not elite) in run defense, with a good tackle radius and strong arms as shown here. His main weakness in run defense can be a bit of slowness to diagnose the play, also shown here.

Ohio State vs Wisconsin, all Chase Young plays | CFB 2019 on YouTube

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 4, 2020

[0:05] This is kind of an interesting play because Chase lines up as the MIKE linebacker rather than putting his hand in the dirt. This makes it difficult for the OL to double team him because they don’t know which gap he will attack and they can’t ignore the DL in front of them.

Chase blitzes the strong side A-gap and instantly defeats the hands of the RG to run past him. When I say “instantly”, you’d be forgiven for thinking Chase was left intentionally unblocked — I had to watch it a few times to see what happened.

Chase runs right up to the RG as if for a bull rush, getting him to square up. Once the RG is braced, Chase quickly sidesteps around him while swiping his hands away and is past without breaking stride. The QB quickly dumps the ball off to the RB and Chase stops on a dime, locates the ball carrier, redirects himself, and shoots toward the RB, getting there for a tackle for loss before any of his teammates (some of whom were nearer).

This play shows not just Chase’s ability to instantly defeat 1-on-1 matchups, but also his ability to stop on a dime and accelerate in a completely different direction, as well as his sure tackling. It often looks like Chase is just playing at a different speed setting than other players, bouncing all around the backfield making plays in the time it took his teammates to get off their initial blocks. Pretty amazing for a 265 lb man!

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 4, 2020

[0:42] For those who are worried that Chase is a one-trick pony who can only rush outside, study this play carefully.

Chase is lined up top of screen slightly outside the LT. There is a TE lined up outside the LT who looks in position to chip if Chase rushes around the edge.

How would you attack if you were Chase in this situation? Chase rushes the LT and punches inside his chest, standing him up before immediately dropping his hands and rotating inside, so the tackle has no leverage on him and is hanging at Chase’s side. Chase then shoots to the QB, dragging the LT with him by the arm. The RB moves to intercept Chase inside before Chase has even beat the LT, indicating the RB’s assignment was to guard against Chase inside (quite visible in the replay). Chase bull rushes the RB back to the QB while dragging the LT with him, collapsing the entire left side of the pocket by himself and allowing a DT to rush around the edge and flush the QB towards Chase, who uses a spin move to free himself of the LT in time to get the sack.

In this play, Chase developed a pass rush plan that avoided the chipping TE by rushing inside the OT, though it turned out the RB’s duty was to guard the inside rush lane against him.

This also shows the amount of resources teams had to throw at Chase, using both a TE and RB to assist their LT. Despite this, Chase still won the matchup and got the sack.

Chase Young also seems to take himself out of plays once he decides he’s done his job. I saw a few plays where he was assigned to set the edge and he relaxed once the run broke in the opposite direction instead of trying to chase it down when he had a chance (though small) to impact the play. Similarly, there were a few times he forced a turnover where he seemed to act like the play was over even though the ball was still live and he could have helped recover/return it or block (example below).

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 4, 2020

[2:30] This is both a positive and a negative play by Chase Young.

First, the positive. Chase lines up outside the RT. He is so explosive after the snap that he’s practically past the RT before the RT has a chance to stand up. He also does a great job again of swiping away the RT’s hands and preventing him from gaining any sort of leverage. Within 2 seconds, Chase has bent around the edge to the QB and got the strip sack, doing a great job of aiming his right hand at the ball in order to force the fumble.

This strip sack shows how incredibly explosive Chase is off the edge, as well his excellent hand swipes that allow him to seem unblocked as he runs into the backfield. It also shows why teams rarely left him in 1-on-1 matchups like this.

Now, the negative. After the ball comes out and a teammate picks it up to run it back, Chase has an opportunity to block for him. Instead, Chase just eases up and takes himself out of the play while several of his teammates run up to act as blockers.

I saw too many examples like this, where Chase just gives up on the play once his primary job is accomplished, even though there is still more he could do. I don’t think it’s that he’s lazy or lacks motor (though I’ve seen some people suggest the latter). I think he’s just so single-mindedly focused on his primary assignment that he eases up when he thinks he’s accomplished it instead of looking for more work. It’s something he should improve though, and I hope the coaches point it out to him if it happens in the NFL.

There’s one elephant in the room I feel the need to discuss, which is the bowl game loss to Clemson where Chase didn’t rack up many traditional stats. People who claim this as evidence he “doesn’t show up in big games” either haven’t watched the game or don’t understand what they’re watching. Clemson gameplanned around Chase Young just as heavily as every other team that year, which by itself causes disruption by limiting the types of plays they can run.

After watching that game, I was also struck by the truth of the saying “sacks are a QB stat”. To my eye, one of the other factors preventing Chase Young from getting more stats in that game was Trevor Lawrence’s pocket awareness and ability to throw the ball away as soon as Young was near. Still, Young caused tremendous disruption by forcing so many wasted passes that resulted in incompletions. Lawrence had a completion percentage of more than 70% most games last year, but it dropped to 55% against Ohio State.

Clemson also took Chase Young out of the game by simply running Trevor Lawrence in the opposite direction as Chase many plays, resulting in Lawrence rushing for 107 yards on 16 carries, the most rush attempts and yards of his college career, but not a strategy every NFL team can employ.

The bottom line is this: the Redskins selected a premier talent with the second overall pick; a player who is disruptive when he is making the play, and often equally disruptive even when he doesn’t make the play because the offense has to worry about the threat he presents, and devote a lot of resources to stopping him.