WASHINGTON — Call it the burden and blessing of being a middle child, but Su’a Cravens knows how to push those around him while also handling being pushed.
Cravens, a second-round linebacker-safety hybrid, is already finding his way in the NFL, doling out big plays on Sundays while learning on the job Monday-Saturday.
Already this season he has 11 tackles and two passes defensed. Last Sunday provided his best film yet, as his first career interception sealed the Redskins’ first win of the 2016 season:
In the aftermath, Pro Football Focus praised the youngster, who continues to impress despite somewhat limited snaps:
“I said last week that if Su’a Cravens continues his high-level of play–even in a part-time role–that he’ll continue to move up the list. The linebacker responded with a filthy game-ending interception and his highest-graded game of the season. Cravens is already establishing himself as one of the best sub-package linebackers in the league.”
Cravens chatted with the media this week, crediting his older teammates for keeping him grounded and showing him support as he adjusts to the NFL level.
“I guess some rookies take it personally, or some guys are just sensitive,” Cravens said. “I grew up in a houseful of brothers and sisters, I’m the middle child, so I’m used to getting picked on by everybody.”
That experience also taught him important lessons in humility, to move on even after big games and exciting moments.
“It’s Week 3, it’s the beginning of the season and there’s nothing to be overly excited about,” Cravens told the media. “Obviously it was a great play but we’ve got to move on.”
Defensive coordinate Joe Barry enjoys the teaching process and admits that he “kicks him in the butt every single day.”
“Su’a loves to get coached. He loves, he craves knowledge,” Barry explained. “He wants a pat on the back obviously like everybody when they do something good but doesn’t go in the tank on you when he does something bad and you let him know.
“I’m excited about him, [but he’s] gotta keep improving, gotta keep playing. Peak-perform. Play better than you did last week. He played really good last week but play better this week.”
Cravens’ versatility is part of what makes him so valuable in sub-packages. But in order to have staying power in the NFL, Cravens will eventually need to convert his raw instincts into positional mastery.
That’s a work in progress.
“He’s still a rookie, still a young guy, still has a million miles to go,” Barry said. “But he comes into work every day and loves football, loves working at it. I think he’s going be an exciting guy for a lot of years to come.
“He’s got unbelievable instincts and awareness and feel and the more comfortable he gets with the professional game. You’ll see him just making more and more plays.”