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2019 Broncos roster review: Safety Su’a Cravens

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Can Su’a Cravens make the transition this year from linebacker to safety?

NFL: Denver Broncos at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Su’a Cravens came to the Denver Broncos last offseason via a trade with Washington that was rumored all offseason, and then finally happened. He has been a player that has received a lot of attention and there was excitement when he was brought in, that he could carve out a nice role here defending running backs and tight ends.

Unfortunately, like much of Cravens’ career so far, he didn’t live up to the, perhaps too lofty expectations Broncos Country had for him.

Cravens continued to struggle with injuries last year, and only was active for five games, playing 10% of the total defensive snaps in 2018. When he was active, Cravens played anywhere from 20% - 50% of the snaps on defense - mostly being brought in for sub-packages.

The Good

I really liked Cravens coming to Denver and broke down some of his film when he was first acquired. I saw some of those same traits in 2018, although he was used infrequently. When he was on the field, Cravens played well and showed good play recognition, run support, and was rarely out of position.

The key benefit he brings is the ability to fill that box safety/dime linebacker role and add coverage ability while still protecting against the run in sub-packages.

He still looked to have his speed and change of direction as well, so that’s a positive sign, considering his injury issues.

The Bad

First of all, Cravens needs to be able to stay available. I know there were some rumblings that he found himself in Vance Joseph’s doghouse, and several players indicated that Joseph wasn’t always playing the best players, Cravens being one of those, but he still missed several games due to injury again.

I have still yet to see Cravens play a true safety position since his freshman year in college. So far in the NFL, Cravens has essentially played linebacker, with linebacker responsibilities. Vic Fangio and Donatell have made it very clear that if Cravens is going to make this team, it’s going to be as a full-blown safety.

They have a history of developing DBs, so anything is possible, but this is a major concern, especially in a system that asks a lot of its safeties.

Quotable

Vic Fangio

“He’s got to be a safety first and foremost. Anything besides safety is just a couple crumbs here and there. He’s got to win a job on this team as a safety.”

DC Ed Donatell on the role that S Su’a Cravens will play this season

He’s just like all of the other DBs. The biggest thing right now is to learn the system, and then to improve your technique. Then we’ll take it into camp, put the pads on and see where that goes.”

On Cravens’ enthusiasm during this learning process

“He’s been good and brings good energy. I’m really pleased with the whole group.”

Shelby Harris

“Su’a is just in here trying to make plays and trying to get noticed. Everyone is. It’s a new coaching staff. You have to go into it like you have no film. I feel like Su’a’s approach this offseason has been great. He’s just really putting his head down and trying to work. That’s the attitude we need to be successful.” - Shelby Harris

Su’a Craven’s roster status with the Broncos

Although I am a Cravens fan and am rooting for him, I’m not sure he makes it onto the final 53. Under a new defense that requires their safeties to be interchangeable and routinely handle deep responsibilities, the realist in me just doesn’t see Cravens making it.

I hope he proves me wrong and is able to transition from a linebacker to a safety, but it will be a big leap.