The Washington Redskins 'inside' plan for rookie Su'a Cravens

The "Where will Su'a Cravens play" game starts not in the secondary or on the outside, but in the middle of the Redskins' defense.

ASHBURN, Va. -- Rookies Steven Daniels and Su'a Cravens don’t look like they should be lining up at the same position.
Daniels, a seventh-rounder from Boston College, is a stout 5-foot-11, 243-pound defender with jersey-stretching biceps. Cravens, the Washington Redskins' second-round pick out of USC, is a lanky 6-foot-1 player who weighs 226 pounds and moves with the fluidity of a defensive back.
Yet there the two rookies were on Saturday, squatting side by side at inside linebacker during the Redskins’ Saturday rookie minicamp session. And according to coach Jay Gruden, that’s Phase One of the Let’s Turn Cravens Into A Versatile Chess Piece plan that Washington is starting to execute.
“Initially we have to teach him a position, and right now it’s going to be the inside linebacker,” the head coach said. “And then from there we might branch off where it’s the nickel and it could be safety later on. But initially, give him something to sink his teeth into, learn it and then go on from there and see what he can do.”
For Cravens, it’s a hefty assignment. Picking up one spot and all its reads and calls as a first-year pro in the NFL is already strenuous enough. And it doesn’t sound like the Redskins are taking it easy on him so far.
“I’m trying to pick it up as fast as I can, but the first day, they threw half the playbook at me and said, ‘Know this by tomorrow morning,’” he said.
Still, despite the headaches he may go through and the issues he may have in the early stages, Cravens understands why his employers are putting him through an arduous process.
“I think at the moment that’s just what they want me to learn, the ins and outs of the defense,” he said. “Then later on, they’ll move me back with the DBs and have me learn the defense from the outside in.”
The benefits of this hybrid position Cravens will hopefully fill are obvious: He’ll be quick enough to patrol the flats and cover pass catchers but big enough to come up into the front seven and cause problems at the line of scrimmage. In today’s league, offenses are always looking to deploy matchup nightmares. The 20-year-old, however, could be one for Joe Barry’s unit.
That’s why Washington is willing to wait for Cravens to become more comfortable (it is just May, after all). And when the day comes that he is, the Burgundy and Gold will happily cash in on their new moneybacker or "Land Shark."
"It’s a challenge — but I’m up for it,” he said. "I think with the coaching and all the tools that they give me, I’ll be able to do it. I’m trying to learn as fast as I can and be an impact somewhere on the defense."

Peter Hailey on Twitter at @barelyin.

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