When the Redskins kick off the second half of their season Sunday, linebacker Su’a Cravens should see an expanded role.
The second-round pick’s rookie season got off to a promising start. He came off the bench to contribute in Washington’s nickel packages, relieving starter Mason Foster and averaging around 19 snaps a game. However, each week, that playing time gradually increased. Cravens’ brightest moment came when he intercepted an Eli Manning pass to clinch Washington’s Week 3 victory over the Giants.
But the following week, Cravens sustained a concussion against Cleveland and missed the next two games. He returned for the Oct. 23 game against Detroit, but played on just 11 of 53 defensive snaps. His workload in Week 8 against Cincinnati increased to a season-high 30 of Washington’s 88 snaps.
Cravens said that he didn’t notice any rust when he returned to action against the Lions, but coaches thought it wise to bring him back gradually.
“You know, that concussion was a little bit of a setback for him,” defensive coordinator Joe Barry said Thursday. “You’ve heard me stand up here before – with any player, but especially with young players, especially guys that are as young as 21 years old like he is, he needs to play. He needs to practice. He needs every single rep. So it was a little bit of a setback for him when he missed – what did he miss – two or three weeks … but he’s rolling right now and hungry and eager and excited and mainly healthy.”
Sunday, Cravens’ snap counts could increase again. Barry also could begin using him in a greater variety of ways. Cravens said that this week, he spent more time working with the first-team defense, both on run and pass packages.
The challenge for Barry involves finding ways to get a natural play-maker such as Cravens on the field without sitting Foster, whose 56 tackles are second on the team. But Barry is looking for ways to get both players on the field at the same time.
“We have different packages, we have different ways to do that,” he said. “I think we were on our way to creating that. The injury kind of stunted that a little bit. Absolutely, it’s always a good thing when you’ve got a number of productive players that you can get on the field at the same time. So, yes, absolutely we’ll do that.”
Cravens has resumed taking snaps at safety on the scout team defense, and Barry said he might use Cravens there at some point. But for now, Cravens’ only reps in Washington’s defense have come at linebacker.
Against Cincinnati, Cravens was used as a pass-rusher more after spending the first part of the season primarily dropping into pass coverage or providing run support. This week in practice, Cravens said he has “done a little bit of everything,” which is just fine with him.
“I see them getting me in the mix more, whether against the run, pass coverage, or applying pressure,” Cravens said. “But I’m not the coach, so I don’t really worry about that. Just wherever they tell me to go, however they want to use me, I’m ready.”