Thursday, May 24, 2018

Since Su’a Craven’s reinstatement to the NFL a week ago, there has been much speculation about his future with Washington Redskins. Cravens was a 2nd round pick in the 2016 draft from USC. He stood out throughout his college career as a playmaking safety. Cravens showed his ability to be a jack of all trades when he recorded 86 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and 2 interceptions in his junior season. Cravens’ instincts to make plays in the backfield along with his athleticism to defend in the passing game warranted the Redskins selecting him with their 53rd overall pick.

Rookie Season

Cravens had a productive season for the Redskins in his rookie year. In the 2016 season, Su’a rotated in games at the Will (weakside) linebacker position. As he did in college, the former USC star showed promise in the pass and the run game. Before a concussion ended Cravens’ season, he recorded 34 tackles and an interception. Cravens displayed a combination of speed and physicality that gave fans reason to believe he had a bright future as a potential starter for the Redskins defense.

He truly shined in the week 3 win versus Washington’s NFC East rival, the New York Giants. Cravens made an excellent play to seal the game in the 4th quarter. In man- to- man coverage, he jumped an Eli Manning pass to make a diving interception across the middle of the field. Although the linebacker only played in 11 games (3 starts) in 2016, Cravens showed the Redskins coaching staff that his dynamic skill set would be best suited at the safety position.

Su’a Cravens moved into his natural position of strong safety going into his sophomore NFL season. Throughout the offseason, coaches and players spoke highly of his transition from linebacker to defensive back. Cravens had played his way into a starting role by the start of the preseason. After just playing 3 plays in Washington’s preseason opener, the safety suffered a meniscus injury in his left knee. This sidelined him for the rest of the preseason, but he was expected to be ready to start week one of the regular season.
However, Cravens didn’t play a single snap in the 2017 season.

Retirement

Days before the Redskins’ season opener versus the Philadelphia Eagles, the team’s starting safety informed his teammates in a group chat that he would be retiring. It is reported that Su’a came to this decision due to his concussion history and family issues. Cravens’ rash decision did not sit well with his teammates, fans, or the organization. The Redskins front office tried talking Cravens out of retirement before adding him to the exempt/left team list. This move was originally meant to sideline the safety for the first four games of the season. It was reported that Su’a wanted to return in week 5, but the team ultimately decided to sit him for the rest of the season.

In December, Cravens’ agent explained that he had suffered from Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS) after the head injury that ended his rookie season. This statement hints at the fact that his concussion could be what caused his seemingly sudden decision to retire. It has been proven that some of the effects of PCS can include emotional and behavioral issues. Cravens later confirmed that he faced mental issues from the concussion, but that he has undergone treatment, and is now ready to return to football.

Why Should He Stay?

Su’a Cravens has since applied for, and been granted reinstatement to the NFL. Amid this time, there have been many of reports of the Redskins’ front office exploring trades for the safety. It is understandable why management would want to explore a trade for him, as there is looming chance that Cravens could once again consider retirement. Despite the risk of keeping the former 2nd round pick, trading him would not be in the team’s best interest.

Other teams are aware of Su’a pondering retirement this past season. For that reason, it’s unlikely that they would offer more than a late draft pick for the potential star. Making that trade would simply not be worth the upside that Cravens can provide. His versatility would greatly improve the Skins defense, as it did in 2016. Cravens’ ability to guard opposing Tight Ends in man- to- man situations would help the Redskins secondary, particularly after trading defensive back, Kendall Fuller. Washington’s defense ranked last in defending Tight Ends last year, as they allowed 80 receptions for 983 yards and 8 touchdowns over the season. His experience at linebacker will be beneficial when it comes to rushing the passer and stopping the run. The safety will undoubtedly shine in a role on the Redskins special teams as well; a unit that has struggled in years past.

Going into the 2018 season, it is likely that the starting safeties for Washington’s defense will be Montae Nichsolson and DJ Swearinger. Su’a Cravens would still play a key role as wild card in the defense and provide much needed depth on special teams. Despite his past issues, the Redskins should give Cravens another chance to prove that he was worth the team’s 2nd round pick in 2016.

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