Putting Su'a Cravens' role in a box hasn't been as easy since the Washington Redskins drafted the, um, safety, or inside linebacker or "landshark." Yet after the first three full days of practice, based on little variation with how the Redskins are using the second round pick, clarifying Cravens is becoming clearer.
Every morning, the Redskins begin their walk-through by sending their first offense/defense (with a few extra bodies to rotate in) to one field and their reserves to the second field. For the first few days of camp, Inside Linebackers Mason Foster and Will Compton have been getting all the snaps with the first team defense.
Once inside linebacker Perry Riley was activated, he started taking some of Foster's snaps on defense. Riley was really coming on before an injury stole his season last year which caused Foster to step up in the first place.
Focus on just the inside linebackers here as Cravens and Martrell Spaight have been the first duo on the reserves field. They have received a few first team reps during live 11 on 11 practice but for the most part, they've been behind Compton, Foster, and Riley.
Last year, when the Redskins went to their nickel package, Foster and Compton would stay on the field because the Redskins didn't have any specialized player at safety or linebacker for this role. Despite some weaknesses in coverage, the Redskins basically rolled with who they had and took their losses where they had to.
This is ultimately where I think the team wants Cravens to contribute his first year. In obvious passing situations, I expect Cravens to come in and replace the winner of the Foster/Riley camp battle. His athleticism at the position is something the team lacked last year. It should provide improved pass coverage while also not giving up too much in the run game on draws/delays, etc. in those same situations.
Despite practicing behind Compton, Riley and Foster, I expect Cravens' snaps to ultimately be determined by the offensive packages the Redskins face. I have yet to see Cravens practice with the safeties, but we're still early in camp and the coaching staff likely hasn't revealed all their plan for the USC product. Cravens already appears to be playing a huge role on special teams as I've seen him with the kick off, kick return, and punt teams. He could become a leader there while stepping on the field any time a tight end or running back needs his attention.
In other words, Cravens will play plenty this year. Now we're starting to get a sense of where and when.
Paul Conner is the Film Analyst and Draft Evaluator at Breaking Burgundy. You can follow him on Twitter @P_ConnerJr
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