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Playmaker yes, but playing time questions for Redskins Su'a Cravens

Playmaker yes, but playing time questions for Redskins Su'a Cravens

Don't blink watching the NFL or you will miss the evolution taking place in pro football. For decades stopping the run was the paramount defensive principle, but as offenses around the league transform into a pass-first scheme, changes must happen on both sides of the ball.

For many teams, that means new personnel. And that certainly is apparent with Redskins second round pick Su'a Cravens.

A 6 foot 1, 225 lbs. "football player" Cravens comes to Washington without a clear position. He's likely too small to regularly play linebacker, and with a 40 time of 4.69, lacks the high-end speed to be a true safety.

So, while Redskins coaches are excited about the addition of Cravens, the question lingers: Where will he play?

"They said they see me as a dime linebacker," Cravens told the media Friday night. "So, I’m going to come in and give it my all."

Undoubtedly, Cravens was a playmaker on the college level. Playing a hybrid linebacker/safety role at USC, Cravens took Pac-12 honors and logged 5.5 sacks and two interceptions last season. 

"The fact that Washington called me – which I wasn’t expecting – and told me that’s what they wanted me to play, I feel like it’s a spot where I can fit right in the defense," Cravens said of the dime linebacker position.

It sounds like Cravens could be an impact player for the Redskins defense, however, one hurdle remains. Per Pro Football Focus' Rick Drummond, the Redskins only deployed their dime defense on 138 snaps out of 1,159 total defensive snaps, or about 12 percent of the time. 

So did the Redskins just use a highly valued second-round pick on a player who will maybe play on 12 percent of defensive snaps?

"When you're talking about defensive football nowadays, you want to get people who can do multiple things and be versatile in what they do and figure out ways to get the ball back for your offense," Washington coach Jay Gruden said of Cravens. "He's one of the top guys at his position. He's got position flex. He's a ball hawk. He's a turnover machine and he's a great player."

Gruden alluded to the changing nature of the NFL, and what defenses must do to keep up. The coach's comments still don't address how much or how little Cravens will see the field.

"Once we get him in the building, we will figure out a way to get him on the field," Gruden said.

Drafted in part for his versatility, last year's second round pick Preston Smith emerged to be one of the Redskins best defenders. But unlike Cravens, Smith had the size to stay on the field in multiple packages and played on nearly 50 percent of the Redskins defensive snaps (577).

For Cravens to prove his draft position worthwhile, either he will need to make a tremendous amount of impact plays in the 12 percent of snaps he projects to be on the field, or his role will have to grow larger than just dime linebacker. 

Known for his hard work and football acumen, Cravens seems the type of player fit to grow into a large role. For the Redskins, he better, because he's unlikley to grow large enough to be a full-time lnebacker, or fast enough to be a true safety.

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Fans, Redskins pay tribute to longtime NBC Sports Washington reporter Rich Tandler

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NBC Sports Washington

Fans, Redskins pay tribute to longtime NBC Sports Washington reporter Rich Tandler

NBC Sports Washington lost an important piece of its family this week when longtime Redskins reporter Rich Tandler died on Tuesday. He was 63.

Tandler joined NBC Sports Washington in 2011. He began his writing career in his 40s after working in restaurants and created his blog, Real Redskins, in 2004, which became the longest-running blog on the team. He also wrote three books on the Redskins and posted an estimated 2,300 consecutive “Need To Know” posts, becoming a must-read for Redskins fans as part of their morning routine.

“We’re devastated to learn of the loss of one of our most loved and valued media members, Rich Tandler of NBC Sports Washington,” Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder said in a statement. “His dedication to covering the Redskins over the past 14 years has made him an irreplaceable presence among our media corps, and he will be in our hearts. Our thoughts are with his family, our family at NBC Sports Washington, and the entire Redskins community. He will be truly missed.”

The team will hold a moment of silence for Tandler before its game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday and will keep his regular seat on press row empty. On Wednesday, Redskins quarterback Alex Smith offered his “thoughts and prayers to his family.”

“Rich’s kind and warm nature made him a good friend and an especially close colleague to many of us at NBC Sports Washington,” NBC Sports Washington General Manager Damon Phillips said in a statement. “His passion for his work and the Redskins was inspiring and made him a critical part of many of our successes over the past seven years. This is a very big loss for the sports community. Our thoughts are with his family and his many friends.”

Fans, Redskins players, fellow reporters, and friends of Tandler paid tribute to him on social media.

“Incredibly saddened by the sudden passing of NBCSW’s Rich Tandler. He was a great talent and an important voice in the DC sports community. Our thoughts are with his wife @MissSkeetersmom, his family and his family at @NBCSWashington,” Washington Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis wrote on Twitter.

 

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2018 NFL Power Rankings: Patriots prove they still got it, Rams remain top dog

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USA Today

2018 NFL Power Rankings: Patriots prove they still got it, Rams remain top dog

In a thriller in Foxboro, the Patriots handed Kansas City its first loss of the season.

It wasn't pretty but the Rams slipped past the Broncos to remain the lone unbeaten in the NFL.

Remember when the Lions beat New England on Sunday Night Football and folks were ready to bury the Patriots? Yeah... how did that 'hot take' work out?

CLICK HERE FOR WEEK 7 NFL POWER RANKINGS

Will the real Redskins please stand up? A win over the Panthers moved the Skins up three spots. Give the Redskins this, they are consistently unpredictable.

The Ravens are on the rise and Marcus Mariota is happy the Titans won't have to play Baltimore again.

So the Cowboys have an offense now? Or does Jacksonville not have an elite defense anymore?

And the Bears let Brock Osweiler throw for 380 yards. Yes. You read that correct. 380 yards. 

How far will the Bears drop because of that dreadful defensive performance? 

CLICK HERE FOR WEEK 7 NFL POWER RANKINGS