Our very own, Ben Standig, was first to report the news that rookie Su'a Cravens would be making a move to safety in 2017. Based on this tweet from the horse's mouth, not only will that happen sooner, but it appears to be the player's preference:
Craven's played majority of the season as a weakside linebacker in base packages which the team calls "Mo." In nickel, he played the weakside "Dime" backer position. The team, from my understanding, opted to train him at linebacker first because of his youth (21 years old) and the fact it gave him early playtime. However, with injuries and the lack of talent at safety, both safety spots would have been major needs for the team this off-season. Cravens now becomes an in-house solution to at least one safety spot, in their eyes.
It should be noted that Cravens played really well at linebacker. He had 34 tackles, 5 passes defended, 1 sack and 1 interception. Cravens played a key role in several of the team's key games including the win over the New York Giants, tie in London against the Cincinnati Bengals and the big win against the Green Bay Packers. The way he looked and played the position reminded me of a young Thomas Davis. The way the team used Cravens was similar to what I projected pre-draft. He's more of an in-the-box, upfield playmaker. He's best covering in short spaces.
With this move to safety, it will definitely be interesting to see how exactly the team uses him. Based on past seasons, the Redskins really don't have "strong or free safeties." They interchange them often and they are all expected to do similar things. This could be a problem for Cravens. While the former USC Trojan is a gifted athlete, he's a lot more twitchy than fast. Two of his more pedestrian numbers pre-draft was his 4.69 forty yard dash and his 30-inch vertical. According to Pro Football Focus, only 8 of his 341 coverage snaps at USC (2015) were as a true free safety eight yards off-the-ball. If the Redskins use Cravens in deep zones or single high, like they do with all their safeties, problems could arise.
If safety is a long-term deal for Cravens, I much rather see the Redskins use him like former Steelers' great Troy Polamalu. He too was a glorified linebacker who played uphill, blitzed off the edge and inside. Not to mention, he was known for covering running backs and tight ends. If you want Cravens to maximize his talent at safety, you better use him in the "phone-booth." Of all Cravens' pre-draft numbers, his most impressive was a 6.92 three-cone. That number would've ranked second among all linebackers, third among defensive linemen and third among safeties at the 2016 NFL combine. For comparison sake, Falcons' Pro Bowl OLB Vic Beasley ran a 6.91 three cone in 2015. That is a sick number for Cravens and just further proves that he's more twitchy than fast. He has an ability to bend and move in short spaces.
The Redskins have to be careful not to play Cravens outside his comfort zone. If they do, it wouldn't be the first time they've done that with a player. While I still believe Cravens has the potential of a Thomas Davis at linebacker, if he can be anything like a Troy Polamalu at safety, that would be a win.
You can find Emmanual on Twitter @manny_benton.
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