Su'a Cravens has emerged as a playmaker for the Redskins defense, but he's also dealing with the second injury of his rookie season. He missed two games earlier this year after sustaining a concussion, and has been ruled out for Monday night's game as he works back from an elbow injury sustained in last week's win over Philadelphia.
When the Redskins drafted Cravens, the only question about the 6-foot-1, 226 lbs. USC star was what position would he play. In college, Cravens played a hybrid role, lining up at linebacker and safety and working all over the field. Thus far in the NFL, the rookie has worked exclusively as an inside linebacker.
Still working all over the field, serving as a spy on quarterbacks and running backs, there is still some question if Cravens would not be better suited for the strong safety position. Washington coach Jay Gruden has been asked about a position change for Cravens a few times this season, and was asked again after the linebacker was ruled out for the Panthers game.
"That’s a good question. I think if we were to make a position switch, it would be because we think he would be better at that position, not be because of the injuries," Gruden said. "I think there’s fluky-type things."
For the year, Cravens has 23 tackles to go with one sack, five passes defensed and an interception. His Week 3 pick of Eli Manning may prove to be the most important play the Redskins defense has made this season, as the rookie sealed Washington's first win of the year in New York. That victory launched the team on a four-game win streak that got them back in the playoff picture.
It's his ability in the passing game that could make a position change inevitable, especially as the Redskins don't have a long-term answer at strong safety.
Since signing with Washington in early October, Donte Whitner has dominated snaps at strong safety. His play has been spotty, but the coaching staff has confidence in his situational knowledge as a long-time NFL vet. If the staff was to make a change for 2017, giving Cravens a full offseason to learn the strong safety position would make sense.
"We’re not concerned about his longevity whatsoever, but if we did make that switch, it would be because we think he would be really good at the other position," Gruden said.
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