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Pressure Points: New position should lead to more playmaking from Su'a Cravens

Pressure Points: New position should lead to more playmaking from Su'a Cravens

In the weeks leading up to training camp, Redskins Insider JP Finlay will look at specific people facing increased pressure for the 2017 season. 

Pressure Point: Strong safety Su'a Cravens

Cravens flashed his playmaking ability in spots during 2016, but finding the right position and injuries stunted his impact as a rookie. He lost time early in the year to a concussion against the Browns and then saw his season cut short after an arm injury in December in Philadelphia. 

Injuries can't be planned on, but in 2017, the position issue should be solved.

Cravens looks poised to open the season starting alongside D.J. Swearinger in the Redskins secondary. The rebuilt safety duo could go a long way towards an improved Redskins defense.

Swearinger established himself as a quality starter last year playing with the Cardinals. Pro Football Focus rated him the No. 8 safety in the NFL. For Cravens, however, this is the year to establish himself.

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

So far, Redskins coach Jay Gruden likes Cravens' development.

"He’s doing a great job. We’re happy with his progress," Gruden said in June. "I think just the more he plays, the better he’s going to get. The more he can just go practice and watch himself on tape and watch his eye progression and his angles, that’s just going to be huge for him because he continues to develop."

One of the reasons he slipped out of the first round in the 2016 Draft was because of speed. At his USC Pro Day, he ran a 4.69. Is Cravens fast enough to play safety in the NFL? 

His 40 time might not suggest it, but the Washington secondary is not full of burners anyway. In fact, linebacker Zach Brown's 4.50 40 time at the NFL Combine was faster than any of the Redskins projected secondary (Cravens, Swearinger, Josh Norman or Bashaud Breeland). The Redskins coaches think proper positioning and communication will account for any lack of speed in their defensive backfield. 

In college at USC, Cravens played mostly safety but showed he could line up all over the field. In Washington last season, he played almost exclusively interior linebacker, mostly in dime and nickel situations.

He produced, 23 tackles and an interception in 11 games, but it seemed clear to all parties he was better suited for the secondary. Asked about Cravens late last season, one Redskins player said simply, "Su'a is a safety."

This year, Su'a is a safety.

Week 3 as a rookie, Cravens made arguably the most important play of the Redskins season, intercepting Eli Manning to secure the team's first win of the year. That pick showed exactly why the Redskins drafted Cravens. He was tight in coverage and made a leaping, athletic play on the ball to force the turnover.

As a strong safety, Cravens will inch up towards the box on plenty of snaps and will rarely, if ever, be wholly responsible for deep middle coverage. That should mean plenty more opportunities to make plays like he did in Giants Stadium. The pressure is on.

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Dwayne Haskins took the first-team reps in practice on Wednesday and Bill Callahan was impressed

Dwayne Haskins took the first-team reps in practice on Wednesday and Bill Callahan was impressed

While the Redskins 2019 campaign has not gone as expected, news from Wednesday's practice should give the fanbase a glimmer of hope for the future at the quarterback position.

Starting QB Case Keenum was held out of Wednesday's practice to rest his body. With Keenum absent, rookie Dwayne Haskins took all of the first-team reps. Callahan was impressed with the Ohio State product and pleased with his development.

"Dwayne took all the reps today and it’s invaluable for a backup to take starting reps," Callahan said. "Especially at the beginning of the week in terms of putting your plan together and laying it out there and making all the adjustments, whether it’s new communication, new formations, handling the shift-motion game.

"I thought he did a really good job today, so his growth is starting to show in practice and also in his preparation," Callahan continued. "He’s in earlier, he’s out later, so it’s all coming to fruition. It’s going to take a little time, but it’s good to see him take a major step today in practice."

Keenum wasn't the only veteran to be held out as practice, as running back Adrian Peterson missed Wednesday's practice, too. Interim head coach Bill Callahan held out both players simply to rest their bodies. It's not atypical for veterans to miss Wednesday practices, especially as it gets to the deeper portion of the season.

"Definitely just veteran guys, backing them down and just trying to take care of their bodies a little bit better," Callahan said of why he held them out.

When Callahan took over as interim head coach last week, many expected the team to turn to Haskins as their starting QB. At the time, Washington was 0-5, and both Keenum and Colt McCoy had been largely ineffective under center.

Although Callahan did not immediately turn to the signal-caller, he's at least given a plan of action to develop the rookie, something that was unclear while Jay Gruden was the head coach.

"He will be [the starter] at some point in time,” Callahan said on Haskins during his introductory press conference last Monday. “We’re going to continue to develop him and heighten his maturation process, try to get him on schedule so he is prepared."

Gruden had Haskins running the scout team. Even when Keenum does practice, Callahan has given the rookie at least a few reps with the starters.

"We've got to be conscientious in getting him some repetitions during the course of the practice," Callahan said last week. "So that will a little be a shift in philosophy moving forward."

When Callahan ultimately pulls the trigger to move to the rookie remains uncertain. But with Haskins improving by the day, and Keenum continuing to turn in subpar results on Sunday's, that move could come sooner rather than later.

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Browns GM admits trade talks with Redskins' Bruce Allen but 'takes two to tango'

Browns GM admits trade talks with Redskins' Bruce Allen but 'takes two to tango'

As the days inch closer to the NFL Trade Deadline on October 29th, the Redskins still sit with a giant hole on their roster as standout tackle Trent Williams continues his holdout. 

It doesn't have to be that way, but Redskins Team President Bruce Allen has said repeatedly he doesn't intend to trade Williams this year. And judging by the words from Browns GM John Dorsey right, Allen is telling the truth. 

"We’ve had a few conversations,'’ Dorsey said via Cleveland.com. "It takes two to tango."

The indication being Allen rebuffed the conversation, which is similar to what sources said during training camp that at least three AFC teams called to inquire about Williams and were told there was no discussion to be had. Well, the clock is ticking, and as each day passes, it makes less and less sense to have Williams in Washington. Or more accurately, to have Williams under contract with Washington but not actually in Washington.

Redskins interim head coach Bill Callahan got asked about the trade talks and said quickly: "I don't know anything about that, so we’ll see about that."

The head coach then added, "You’re always looking to improve your roster by any means. Whether you’re acquiring by trade or acquiring it through free agency or obviously guys off the waiver wire, we’re always looking."

Cleveland is certainly interested in Williams, Dorsey made that clear without naming him. At 2-4, his team is underperforming against expectations, and star second-year QB Baker Mayfield has been sacked 16 times in six games. Dorsey knows he needs to bolster the Browns offensive line. 

"It’s a hard position to acquire, especially at this time of year. We’ll make a million phone calls. We’ll constantly work the phones," Dorsey said. "If nothing happens, we’ll move onto the next project. If we think we can improve the position, we’ll make a move if it’s right for this organization."

Compensation will be key as the Williams situation unfolds. The team will want a lot for the seven-time Pro Bowler and some teams might be unwilling to pay with a first-rounder. Williams is under contract for through 2020, but might want a new deal or more guaranteed money in his current contract. 

The calls will keep coming to Ashburn asking about WIlliams. The question will be if Allen will pick them up. 

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