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Rookie Su'a Cravens Not Fixated On Early Success In NFL


The rookie has performed well in his first three NFL games, but knows he still has much to learn early in the season.

While Su'a Cravens stood by his locker to answer questions in front of reporters and cameras on Thursday, he had the extra challenge of keeping a straight face.

Behind him, peeking over heads, linebackers Will Compton and Mason Foster tried to distract the rookie USC product, who clinched last Sunday's 29-27 victory over the Giants with his first interception. "Where's the game ball?" they prodded him jokingly, spurring him to take it from his locker and cradle it to finish the rest of his interviews.

Cravens has grown used to his locker mates' shenanigans. Compton and the entire defensive line, he said, give him the most grief while Foster has been more of a "big bro." But Cravens has relied on his own upbringing to disregard the ribbing when necessary.

"I guess some rookies take it personal, 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, so they don't bother me."

These moments make it obvious Cravens is just a rookie, but his play in his first three regular season games has not. His interception against Manning on Sunday was the exclamation to a very productive start to his career, which has included 11 tackles and two passes defensed.

Cravens said he's seen the video highlights of his takeaway many times thanks to Snapchat users congratulating him, along with the rest of his family and friends "blowing up my phone" to express their excitement.

At this juncture, though, Cravens isn't trying to get ahead of himself. The early praise and results have been nice, but they aren't dictating how he approaches his work.

"It's Week 3, it's the beginning of the season and there's nothing to be overly excited about," Cravens said. "Obviously it was a great play but we've got to move on."

Cravens, for example, was the first to admit on Sunday that his miscommunication with safety David Bruton Jr. took away an easy interception from the veteran. With each opportunity to gloat, there is still another play to correct.

"I kick him in the butt every single day," defensive coordinator Joe Barry said. "But, I think you gotta be who you are, too. When a player does something good, I'm gonna give you kudos. When he does something bad, I'm gonna let you know.

"Su'a loves to get coached," Barry added. "He loves, he craves knowledge. 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. But he's…I'm excited about him, 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. So, that's the challenge every week."

Barry's main message is consistency, something that's difficult to attain from rookies, who are still learning new things each week as they get more comfortable in their roles. Because Cravens doesn't have a defined place on the field yet – he's often used in nickel and dime sub packages -- that means more to comprehend.

"He's got unbelievable instincts and awareness and feel and the more comfortable he gets with the professional game, he's gonna---you'll see him just making more and more plays," Barry said. "So, he's getting more and more comfortable all the time. He's still a rookie, still a young guy, still has a million miles to go. But 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."

The Redskins' upcoming matchup with the Browns will be especially meaningful for Cravens as fellow USC alum and former teammate Cody Kessler will line up under center for Cleveland.

The two are best friends and speak to each other often, even working out together in the offseason, but haven't exchanged any pleasantries this week leading up the game.

"He's a game manager, he doesn't make a lot of mistakes with the ball, he doesn't take risky throws," Cravens said. "He's a guy that's not going to turn the ball over, be any sudden change, he's going to work with what we give him and throw the check downs and throw the smart pass. He's really good at the far field out as well too. We're looking for him to open it up underneath our defense."

The best-case scenario for Cravens is helping in another Redskins victory, but another interception against his friend wouldn't hurt either.

"He told me don't get any of them against him," Cravens said. "But hopefully he throws me a couple because I want to get him mad. I want to piss him off."

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