This off-season Denver executed a trade that I believe could take their defense to the next level. The Denver Broncos acquired Su’a Cravens from Washington after he sat out the 2017 season due to concussion issues.
Cravens, going into just his second year of NFL play, looks to be healthy and ready to contribute on a team that he feels actually wanted him.
Name: Su’a Cravens
When people talk about speed on tape vs. timed speed, this is what they mean. pic.twitter.com/fEMUQTixk3— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) March 31, 2018
Cravens’ role in Washington mimicked much of his career at USC - a box safety/undersized linebacker playing on or around the line of scrimmage.
He thrived in this role, holding up well in the running game and making plays covering tight ends and running backs. Denver hopes to continue this trend and see him grow even more as a player.
I mentioned Cravens’ ability to defend running backs and tight ends as a strength of his. I took a deep dive into his 2016 film when Denver acquired him and detailed my findings here.
Here you can see him sticking tight in man coverage lined up over the tight end.
And this beauty while covering the running back.
Joe Woods spoke recently about his ability to fill the run game like a linebacker. His nose for the ball and ability to hold up inside is rare for a player with his size and speed.
This allows Denver a ton of flexibility in their sub packages to have a guy who can cover like a safety (a good one), and play the box like a linebacker.
Injuries are the biggest question mark for Cravens as well as just getting back into playing football. Anytime a guy sits out an entire year, there is a some level of concern about how he will bounce back.
Joe Woods was recently asked about Cravens and spoke very highly of him and how he helps the defense.
“He’s a unique player. You can see he natural instincts when he’s in the box. When he’s in the box, he fits the run like a linebacker. Right now, you can see that. You can see it’s easy for him. We’re just really spending a lot of time teaching him how to play off the ball. Playing the deep safety position. But I think he’s going to really help us in terms of what we’re able to do with our sub-packages. I think there’s a few things actually we can do that we couldn’t do last year.”
Cravens is not only a lock for the roster, he’ll be in line for over 50% of the snaps as a 3rd safety/dime linebacker in Denver’s sub packages. He can and will be used all over the field, I imagine.
There has been talk about working with him to play deep and become more of a traditional safety, but that’s a long way off, in my opinion. Cravens hasn’t played more than 5-7 yards off the line of scrimmage in five years from the tape I have seen. He won’t be taking the reins from Darian Stewart anytime soon.
Currently, his role is a specialized, but extremely useful role. I have been calling for Denver to get a young hybrid S/LB type player for several years now and can’t wait to see him in action this year.