With his family in the stands, Chase Young emerged from the locker room just after halftime in street clothes.
The Washington defensive end’s return to Ohio had not gone as planned. Young, a star pass rusher at Ohio State, walked over to the sideline and got his thigh wrapped by trainers.
Young limped off with a groin injury in the first half of Washington’s 34-20 loss against the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, where a limited capacity of 6,000 fans, including Young’s family, were in attendance. The second overall pick was ruled out quickly, and coach Ron Rivera did not provide much of an update after the loss.
Young was one of two costly injuries to Washington’s defense: The team also lost Matt Ioannidis to an arm injury just prior.
“We’ll see how they’re doing (on Monday),” Rivera said.
Make no mistake: The absences hurt. The Browns had focused on Young at the beginning of the game, throwing double-teams at the rookie. That freed up Washington’s interior pass rushers and defensive tackles like Jonathan Allen and Ioannidis got routine pressure on Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Young had been disruptive in Washington’s first two games, with two sacks, eight tackles, two quarterback hits and a forced fumble. Young used his blazing speed and crafty hands to overwhelm opposing NFL offensive linemen, just like he had done at the college level.
The rookie’s presence helped transform Washington’s defensive line. Entering Sunday, the team led the league with 11 sacks, nine of which came from the line.
Against the Browns, Washington’s line had another two sacks. Allen and 2019 first-rounder Montez Sweat brought down Mayfield. The line also created consistent pressure, which forced Mayfield to throw the ball away at times.
Rivera, though, said the injuries to Young and Ioannidis hurt the team’s depth on the line. After both of them were ruled out, Washington was down to six defensive linemen — meaning the team couldn’t rotate linemen in and out as often as coaches would have liked.
Over the first two weeks, Washington relied on a rotation up front. Young, for instance, played 78% and 71% of the snaps.
“The hard part is you can’t keep guys as fresh as you like them,” Rivera said. “They’re constantly being exposed out there. … I promise you, we go back and look at it, our D-line, they played their butts off and they gave us a chance, gave us an opportunity. But eventually, it’s going to wear you down. It’s going to get to you in the end.
“That’s precisely what happened.”
Cleveland scored 17 of its 34 points in the fourth quarter. They retook the lead with a length 11-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a three-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Harrison Bryant. Then, following quarterback Dwayne Haskins’ third turnover, the Browns capitalized on a short field with a 20-yard touchdown from running back Nick Chubb.
Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 158 rushing yards on 37 carries. Washington was well aware of the threat the duo posed, but was unable to contain the tandem. Chubb (108 yards) ran for two scores, while Hunt caught a 9-yard pass to get into the end zone.
Washington unraveled following the injuries to Young and Ioannidis. Haskins threw an interception, setting up a dazzling Chubb touchdown in which he cut back to evade safeties Landon Collins and Troy Apke. Haskins then threw a second interception that set up Hunt’s score.
In the second half, Young paced up and down the sideline as he cheered on his teammates. He chatted with Haskins late in the game, with the quarterback saying that the pass-rusher was offering words of encouragement.
“He’s a guy that’s going to spark this organization,” Rivera said. “He’s the right kind of young man.”
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