Redskins' Cravens eager to learn how to be an NFL linebacker

BY foxsports • May 18, 2016

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Redskins rookie Su'a Cravens is far more comfortable being a student on the football field than a tourist on the streets of Washington.

Coaches want the second-round pick to learn the inside linebacker position after playing outside linebacker and safety at Southern Cal. No problem, at least compared to trying to hail a cab downtown in the rain.

''It's harder to catch a cab in D.C. than learn our whole defensive playbook all together,'' Cravens said.

Cravens visited the monuments and the Spy Museum and tried Maryland crabcakes in his first few days in the Washington area. On the field, he began the uphill transition to a new position and another level of play.

The Redskins wanted more versatility on defense and figured Cravens fit right in because he has the instincts to play linebacker or safety. At rookie camp last week, his task was to play inside linebacker exclusively to get a grip on the defense from the inside out.

''It's a challenge, but I'm up for it,'' Cravens said. ''I did it in college, and I think with the coaching and all the tools that they give me I'll be able to do it. I just need time. I'm trying to learn as fast as I can and be an impact somewhere on the defense.''

Cravens would like nothing more than to make an impact, but for now is hesitant. The playbook and position are new, so he said he was prone to making a ''brain fart'' or two on the field while getting used to everything.

Amid his frustration, Cravens leaned on linebacker Preston Smith, the Redskins' 2015 second-round pick who needed more than half his rookie season before feeling comfortable.

''I'm used to being a perfectionist,'' Cravens said. ''I'm used to always being first to the ball or getting things fast. And getting an NFL playbook and learning 12 plays in three hours isn't exactly ideal for me. So I would talk to him about that and he calmed me down like: `You got it. Just take it play by play.'''

Play-by-play, day-by-day, growth is what the Redskins' coaches want to see from Cravens, who won't be pigeon-holed into one spot.

''We have to teach him a position, and right now it's going to be the inside linebacker,'' coach Jay Gruden said. ''Then from there we might branch of where it's a nickel (linebacker) and then he could be a safety later on. But initially we'll give him something to sink his teeth into, learn it and then go on from there and see what he can do.''

Cravens thinks he's capable of playing either position. But the 6-foot-1, 226-pound 20-year-old looks at the 6-foot-5, 280-pound outside linebackers in the NFL and wonders how he did that at USC.

With the Redskins, he may be asked to bounce around from linebacker to safety and back.

''It's a different mentality altogether,'' Cravens said. ''At safety you're in the open field and it's not as physical. You're guarding tight ends, which is probably the most physical part. And you have to come inside the box here and there.

''But playing inside linebacker you're in the war all the time. You're in the trenches. You have to be smart, you have to be fast and you have to be able to make a decision or you'll be on your back.''

Cravens has no issues becoming a linebacker because he'd rather be closer to the action.

''Do I like it? Yeah, I like it because I want to make plays,'' he said. Being close to the ball allows me to do so.''


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