Chase Young, Washington's pass rush 'as advertised' in promising start

LANDOVER, Md. -- Washington Football Team defensive end Ryan Kerrigan needed only two words to describe rookie Chase Young.

"As advertised," Kerrigan said.

Young certainly was Sunday -- but, so, too was the rest of Washington's defensive front in a 27-17 win against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1. The group harassed and bothered Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz into a rough game after a hot start. Washington sacked Wentz eight times, with seven of those by six defensive linemen.

In the first quarter, Wentz completed 9-of-11 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. For the rest of the game, he completed 15-of-31 passes for 147 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.

A week or so ago, Washington defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said, yes, the defense had talent but the league was about production. And, too often in the past, Washington's defense did not produce. The franchise hasn't finished in the top 10 in yards or points allowed since the 2009 season. Whether it does this season remains a question, but there's no mystery about what the line can do.

"We have a lot of depth," said Young, who had 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble in his debut. Most of his pressure occurred while lined up at right end. "When you have depth like we do, I feel like you can definitely wear an O-line down."

Washington boasts five first-round picks along the front: Kerrigan, Young, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Montez Sweat. Each one recorded at least a half sack. Then there's Matt Ioannidis, a fifth-rounder, who had a stuffed stat line with 1.5 sacks, four quarterback hurries and a tackle for a loss.

When Ron Rivera took over as Washington's coach this year, he pointed out some of the roster's young talent. As a group, no spot was more talented than Washington's defensive line. It has been mentioned, repeatedly, as the strength of the team.

Young was the No. 2 overall pick in the spring, but he hasn't used that status to think he's something he isn't yet. He also constantly talks about Kerrigan's impact on him. Indeed, Kerrigan set the franchise's career sack record Sunday; he now has 92. He's no longer starting but ended up with two sacks and a fumble recovery -- off a Young sack.

"When you're a dude, you're just special," Young said. "If you're a dude, you're expected to make plays. R.K. is one of the dudes that's going to make plays. He made a lot of plays. What that does for me, I go ask him question after question and ask him: 'How did your game get like that.' Every play R.K. makes I try to make."

Philadelphia's line was missing right tackle Lane Johnson, and left tackle Jason Peters had been at guard until recently. The Eagles' line is not a strength. But Washington showed what it needed. It also took advantage of some weak spots by sending blitzes off the edge. On one, as the line turned to safety Troy Apke's blitz, Kerrigan was left free for a rush.

Another time, on fourth-and-4, Washington showed blitz with two linebackers inside. Center Jason Kelce looked to pick up one of them -- Kevin Pierre-Louis. But Pierre-Louis dropped off and fellow linebacker Jon Bostic was left free for an easy sack.

Tackles Allen and Payne both had a half-sack.

Washington intercepted two passes -- by cornerbacks Fabian Moreau and Jimmy Moreland; both said the pressure helped.

"When you put pressure in the quarterback's face, you know you have time to see routes," Moreau said. "You feel like you can go make a play because the ball's got to come out quick."

But Wentz didn't want to blame the pressure for his second-half struggles.

"It definitely didn't make me skittish," Wentz said. "It didn't affect my accuracy."

Perhaps not. But there were times Wentz had to hurry his throws and missed targets because of the pressure.

Rivera also credited the players learning new techniques under line coach Sam Mills III after most of them had been with Jim Tomsula the previous four years.

"There are a couple of stubborn guys in that group that really fought the techniques," Rivera said. "Today showed them what the results can be and who they can be as players, because it's a heck of a group."

And it's one that knows it can be good. Early in the game, Young was called for a neutral-zone infraction on a third-and-5 that extended a drive. Two plays later, Philadelphia scored its first touchdown. But Young didn't flinch.

"I wasn't tripping over it," Young said of the penalty. "It happens. I have next-play mentality. I made a lot of mistakes out there and I can be better."

If that's the case, then Washington's defense can finally be productive for more than one game.