Chase Young, rehabbing a torn ACL, will start training camp on the sideline

Washington Post photo by John McDonnell
Washington Commanders coach Ron Rivera spoke at a pre-training-camp news conference Tuesday.

The Washington Commanders could be without one of their stars for some time.

Ahead of the opening of training camp Wednesday, the Commanders placed four players, including 2020 defensive rookie of the year Chase Young, on the physically unable to perform list Tuesday. Joining him are tight end Logan Thomas and centers Chase Roullier and Tyler Larsen.

All four players were expected to have delayed starts to training camp, if they participated at all. The most concerning situation, given the time constraints with the regular season starting Sept. 11, is that of Young, who suffered a torn ACL in Week 10 last season.

“He’s been working hard,” coach Ron Rivera said Tuesday during his pre-camp news conference. “His rehab’s been going well from what we’ve seen and what we understand. But you never really know until you get to get your hands back on him. But Chase Young is probably the one that’s going to take the most time. It was serious, obviously, and any time you’re talking about an ACL, it’s just down the line. We’ll have to wait and see on that one.”

Young didn’t take part in organized team activities or minicamp as he continued to rehab. Young, Thomas (knee) and Roullier (fractured fibula) were spotted rehabilitating on the side field as the rest of the team practiced on the primary field during spring workouts.

Although Rivera declined to give timelines for the players’ returns, he indicated Roullier could be the first one back and that Larsen (torn Achilles’ in Week 14) and Thomas, who suffered multiple torn ligaments in Week 13, could return before Young.

“Different type of injury,” Rivera said of Young’s situation. “. . . When they’re ready, they’ll be back on the football field. . . . Chase, the seriousness of his is there. It’s an ACL, and it happened later in the year. I do know what he had said that he expected to be there from the beginning, and that’s an unfair expectation.”

The Commanders also placed tackle Cornelius Lucas on the active/non-football illness list. Rivera said he expects Lucas’s absence to be short term but will know more when he meets with the doctor.

Despite having two centers on the PUP list and a tackle on the NFI list – and having lost five-time Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff in free agency – Rivera didn’t seem concerned about the offensive line. The Commanders signed Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner, veteran guards with experience in Rivera’s system from their days with the Carolina Panthers, and still have Wes Schweitzer, who can play center and guard.

“We like the depth at that position,” Rivera said of his interior linemen. “. . . We try to have 10 guys that we feel good about, and we do. In fact, we feel like we have 12 guys that we feel really good about as far as that group’s concerned.”

On the defensive line, backup ends Casey Toohill and James Smith-Williams, both of whom filled in last season after Young and Montez Sweat were injured, will be called upon again to help fill the void. Rivera also noted that second-year ends Shaka Toney and William Bradley-King will join the mix, as will offseason signing Efe Obada.

The question marks extend to the linebacking corps and the defensive backs, groups that have undergone significant change in recent years. Cole Holcomb, the most experienced of the linebackers, is expected to start at middle linebacker, but the group’s depth will be tested – and that issue extends to the secondary with how the Commanders form subpackages, such as the Buffalo nickel, in which they typically use an extra safety or linebacker.

“We’re going to see what we got in the first week before we make any decisions in terms of veteran guys,” Rivera said of the linebackers. “We feel we got a pretty good group that fits what we want to do.”

Here’s what else to know from Rivera’s news conference and the Commanders’ start to training camp:

Playoffs or bust?

Rivera rejected the notion that this year should be considered “playoffs or bust,” arguing instead that the Commanders’ expectation is simply “to win.”

“I think the biggest thing more than anything else is, why put pressure on us?” he said. “Why don’t we just leave it at winning, and we’ll go from there?”

Chemistry test

During training camp, many fans’ eyes will be on the Commanders’ biggest offseason acquisition, quarterback Carson Wentz, but Rivera said he’ll be looking for continued development and Wentz’s comfort with his teammates. One way to achieve that: team bonding trips.

Rivera said among the events the Commanders held as a team in the spring was a golf outing that pit the players against the coaches.

“I think we’re off to a good start,” Rivera said. “I think there’s some optimism, obviously, and I think that’s a huge plus when you can have something like that. Everybody looks at him and says: ‘Wow, OK. This is different.'”

When asked who won the golf tournament, Rivera smiled, then whispered, “The coaches.”

McLaurin on Wentz

Shortly after signing his three-year contract extension, Terry McLaurin hopped on a flight that got him to Huntington Beach, Calif. There, he joined quarterbacks Wentz and Taylor Heinicke; fellow wide receivers Jahan Dotson, Cam Sims and Dax Milne; running back Antonio Gibson; and rookie tight end Cole Turner. It was the first time the group, including McLaurin, had gotten together for throwing sessions.

“I think the cool thing is [Wentz] and I are starting to build a really, really good personal relationship, which I think is extremely important,” McLaurin said Monday. “. . . I saw what he can do, and to see that live and go through that and start picking his brain, just start really talking ball, I think that was just one of the best parts of that whole weekend because now we get to start putting the work in and the time in. Because without that, you can’t really get to what we really want to get to.”

McLaurin spent three days in California with his teammates. The arrival of training camp has him excited about building on more of the same – and getting down to the details that could determine their success on Sundays.

“Just start to really form our connection within that locker room and put our imprint of what this season could look like,” McLaurin said. “. . . I think the biggest thing I’m looking forward to with Carson specifically is getting in these gamelike situations – getting in these third-and-12 or got-to-have-it situations. That’s where you really get a feel for the quarterback’s mindset and his thought process and he gets to feel where I am as a receiver.”

Welcome aboard

The Commanders named Tyrae Reid Jr. their Doug Williams Coaching Fellow for this season. He was hired as an offensive assistant and will work primarily with the quarterbacks. A Baltimore native, Reid was a quarterback at Bowie State and later returned as a coach – first as a student assistant, then as the quarterbacks coach and most recently as the offensive coordinator.

The fellowship is designed to encourage “team-led opportunities for minority coaches to have a pathway toward gaining access and experience working with an NFL offensive staff,” the team said in a news release.