While Su'a Cravens is listed as a safety, his NFL initiation with the Redskins has started at linebacker as he learns to grasp the defense.
As the Redskins' second-round draft pick, and the first defensive player taken by the team, safety Su'a Cravens knows, after just two days of rookie minicamp, there are just as many expectations of him as there are responsibilities to learn.
"The first day, they threw half the playbook at me and said know this by tomorrow morning," Cravens said by his locker after practice Saturday.
While he is currently listed as a safety, Cravens worked with the inside linebackers group this weekend, part of a transitioning process that head coach Jay Gruden wants as he becomes more comfortable with the defense. Once that's achieved, the versatility Cravens boasted in college at USC will be able to blossom.
"We're going to continue to figure that out. You know, that's what our job is – to try to get him in the best situation possible where he's most comfortable," Gruden said. "But initially we have to teach him a position, and right now it's going to be the inside linebacker, and then from there we might branch off where it's the nickel and it could be safety later on. But initially, give him something to sink his teeth into, learn it and then go on from there and see what he can do."
"[Defensive coordinator] Joe Barry and [linebackers coach Kirk Olividatti], they've really been working with me and helping me understand all their inside backer stuff," he said. "At the moment that's just what they want me to learn, they want me to learn the ins and outs of the defense and then later on they'll move me back with the DBs and have me learn the defense from the outside-in. So right now I'm just taking it day by day and doing the best I can."
The Washington Redskins defense and special teams held their second rookie minicamp practice of 2016 on May 14, 2016, at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
Though Cravens doesn't have the same mass as the other members in his group (6-foot-1, 226 pounds), he makes up for it with his physical style of play, which should help him for the time being as he continues to learn schemes and zones in the middle of the field. Coaches have told him to run to the ball, regardless of if he makes a mistake, to ensure he always finishes his decisions.
In that way, he's still learning and processing the intricacies of the linebacker position: knowing when to blitz, when to stay in coverage, when to attack if the quarterback breaks containment.
"At safety you're in the open field and it's not as physical," Cravens said. "You're guarding tight ends, which is probably the most physical part and you have to work in the box here and there. But playing inside backer, you're in the war at all times and you're in the trenches and you have to be smart , you have to be fast, you have to make a decision or you'll be put on your back."
Cravens looked that way a little bit on Saturday – earning some vocal praise from Barry in between some plays – and seemed his most comfortable during interception drills with the linebackers. For now, the biggest obstacle for Cravens is learning the team's playbook, especially as his roles begin to vary and advance.
"To work hard and be in my playbook, a lot of guys out there know their plays already, a lot of guys that were out there today that were on the on the practice team last year and or guys that were asked to come back and do the rookie minicamp and look [to] paying attention to those guys, they knew the playbook and we're a lot faster than I was and that just comes from studying your playbook and knowing what they're doing," he said. "So over this next week or so, I'm really going to try to get in my playbook and be as fast as they were."
Knowing the plays, and being confident with that knowledge, will only help with his style of play.
"I like being physical," he said. "I mean I want to make plays and being close to the ball allows me to do so…You've got to be fast, you've got to be real fast and you've got to make a decision."