SANTA CLARA – Chase Young played an astonishing 75 snaps in Washington’s only victory in its last six games.
Young had never played that many snaps in a game until that Oct. 15 win in Atlanta, and he did it on a rebuilt right knee that was seriously injured two years ago.
All that to say: Young appears healthy enough to not only rush quarterbacks, but also play as a full-time defensive end and make an impact for the 49ers, who agreed to a trade for him on Tuesday.
Young still must pass a physical for the deal to go through, with a 2024 third-round compensatory pick going to the Commanders in return.
“I’m like you, I kept turning on the tape – 75, 64, that’s a lot of shots. The proof is what translates on the field,” general manager John Lynch said during a conference call Wednesday morning. “He’s been playing a lot and he’s looking really good.
“There’s some preliminary medical stuff where they send medical records and then the final step is to come here today to do the actual physical exam. We hope everything goes well, but he looks healthy based on what he’s done on the field.
Young tore his ACL and patellar tendon during a November 14, 2021 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He missed the last half of this season and then all but the final three games of the 2022 season, with his first return coming against the 49ers in a Christmas Eve loss to them at Levi’s Stadium.
This season, after missing the first game with a neck issue, Young has five sacks, nine quarterback hits and 15 tackles while playing 84 percent of the defensive snaps. His snap count game by game since week 2: 47, 54, 63, 57, 75, 61, 50.
Nick Bosa, Young’s teammate at Ohio State five years ago, has three sacks and an NFL-high 19 quarterback hits. He appeared in 79 percent of the 49ers’ defensive snaps, and he never played more than 68 snaps in his career, a total he matched in the Oct. 15 loss at Cleveland.
The 49ers (5-3) are on a bye week, having lost their third straight game Sunday, 31-17 to the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I hope Chase can help us all the way,” added Lynch. “We needed a little boost after this recent streak.”
Lynch said he contacted his Washington counterpart, Martin Mayhew, a former 49ers executive, two weeks ago and assessed Young’s availability. Mayhew also mentioned that fellow defensive lineman Montez Sweat would be available; Sweat was dealt to Chicago on Tuesday for a second-round pick.
About 90 minutes before the NFL trade deadline, the 49ers landed Young. “It was pretty late in the game. It’s not something that I went to bed Monday night knowing that we would make this deal,” Lynch said. “I had this feeling when I went to bed, I wasn’t sleeping very well, that nothing would work. The more people do these (jobs), the more and more the remuneration increases.
“We were spoiled last year by choosing Christian, not only a great player but a player with years to come (on his contract). It’s more attractive than a player whose contract is expiring.
Young (6-foot-5, 264 pounds) is in the final year of his rookie contract after the Commanders failed to exercise his fifth-year option. Young’s prorated salary will only cost the 49ers $561,000 for the remainder of this season. He has 14 career sacks in 34 games.
At Ohio State, Bosa and Young played together in 2017 and the first two games of the 2018 season, from which Bosa opted out due to a core muscle injury. They combined for five sacks against Rutgers in their last game together, a 52-3 victory at Ohio State.
The 49ers are averaging 2.25 sacks per game, with Bosa and Javon Hargrave each accounting for just three of the team’s 18 sacks. Bosa ended training camp after landing a record contract (five years, $170 million) days before the season opener, and Hargrave left the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency (three years, 39 million dollars).
The 49ers’ philosophy, Lynch reiterated, is to invest heavily in the defensive front. This unit now features first-round talents like Young, Bosa, Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw and Randy Gregory, the latter of whom was acquired via trade on October 6 from Denver.
“We put a lot of resources into it. These guys don’t just have to be good,” Lynch said. “They have to be really good, dominant and wreaking havoc. I feel like it’s on its way. It takes everyone.
The low-cost deal, combined with the potential boost Young offered for their No. 1 unit, prompted the 49ers to focus on adding a defensive line rather than a cornerback or offensive line.
“It was the deal that made the most sense to us,” Lynch added.