Su’a Cravens’ first season was filled with indecision about what position he would play, and while there were lots of reasons Joe Barry got fired, the rookie second-round pick's positioning may have played a role.
Late in the year, Cravens announced via Instagram he would play safety in 2017, despite spending nearly all of 2016 at inside linebacker. That decision came against Joe Barry’s will, per a source with knowledge of the situation, after months of resistance to the switch.
Drafted in the second round, Cravens came to the 'Skins out of a hybrid safety/linebacker role at USC. Mike Mayock of NFL.com gave the following analysis: "Cravens is an outside linebacker-safety hybrid. He's a really good matchup with pass-catching tight ends. They asked him to do a bunch of stuff at USC. This is a really solid second-round pick."
At Barry’s direction, Cravens started the season at inside linebacker and played the position exclusively.
Some within the organization wanted Cravens to play safety, but Barry insisted the rookie stay at inside linebacker. Eventually, a source explained, the decision to move Cravens to the secondary was made and Barry was forced to adjust.
Though Cravens never played at safety for Washington, he was included with the secondary position group during practice at the tail end of the season. Should the ‘Skins have reached the playoffs, sources said Cravens would have played through his arm injury at safety.
Barry wasn’t wrong to want Cravens to learn the linebacker position. For a versatile player, he should know the calls and coverages of the defense. At the same time, the Redskins dealt with numerous injuries as well as some poor play at safety, and as the season progressed, multiple voices at Redskins Park wanted the rookie in the secondary.
Regardless, Cravens stayed at inside linebacker. That decision was not what got Barry fired, but it does show a repeated flaw of the former defensive coordinator.
Early in the season Barry was slow to let Josh Norman travel to cover opposing team’s best receivers. Later in the year, Barry kept Kendall Fuller in the slot a few weeks too long. And for most of the season, Donte Whitner was a liability at safety. Either Cravens or second-year man Deshazor Everrett deserved a shot.
Liked by his players and most who know him, Barry displayed a continued reluctance to make personnel moves, and it might have been part of Jay Gruden's decision to move on.
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