As the Washington Redskins head into free agency after nearly clinching a playoff spot for the second-straight year, we will look at some of Washington’s key players and grade their 2016 performance.
Player: Su'a Cravens
Contract status: $4.44 million/4 years, expires in 2020
Preseason buzz: As a second round pick, many thought that Cravens would be an immediate contributor. Specifically, the way the Arizona Cardinals use Deone Bucannon as a hybrid inside linebacker and strong safety. As training camp commenced, it was clear that Washington was going to keep him solely at linebacker for the time being.
Ended 2016 like: Behind Will Compton and Mason Foster, Cravens saw spot playing time during the season. When he was on the field, it was primarily in nickle defense packages. Cravens finished the season with 33 tackles, five passes defensed, a sack, and an interception.
Season high: In the third game of the year against the New York Giants, Cravens made the game-clinching interception of Eli Manning in the final minute of the fourth quarter. New York was driving to potentially kick a game-winning field goal that would have dropped the Redskins to an underwhelming 0-3 start to the season. Craven's athletic dive to undercut a pass intended for pass catching back Shane Vereen might have saved Washington from an embarrassing season.
Season low: It was not to the severity of fellow rookie Josh Doctson, but Cravens went through a handful of his own injuries in his first year campaign. Cravens missed two games in October with a concussion as well as the final three games of the season with an elbow injury.
When Cravens was on the field, he had flashes of brilliance as a heavy hitter with good speed, but far too often did he look like a deer in the headlights. Cravens would find himself out of position or allowed bigger and stronger offensive linemen to get their hands on him making him a non-factor. It is all part of the growing pains of a rookie playing a new position in a new defense, but it was underwhelming given the exaggerated hype coming into the season.
2017 expectations: Our Ben Standig broke the story that Cravens would be moving to safety full time starting this offseason and that should provide some relief to Washington's weakest part of their defense in 2016. Should Cravens have a strong training camp and pick up the nuances of the position well, it is not out of the question, if not likely that he will be the Week 1 starter come September.
Follow Neil on Twitter @NeilDalal96.
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