Why Su’a Cravens was such a unique pickup for the Broncos
The Denver Broncos acquired a very intriguing defensive weapon this offseason in safety Su’a Cravens. Here’s why he’s a unique player…
The Denver Broncos made it a high priority this offseason to acquire Washington Redskins safety/linebacker Su’a Cravens when he was reinstated from the retired/left team list.
Why did they make acquiring him such a high priority? How will he fit into their defensive scheme?
Without pigeon-holing him into one specific position, Cravens has the potential to be one of the most unique defensive weapons in the NFL.
Here’s a snapshot of what he brings to the table for the Broncos…
Playing the nickel
Cravens (no. 21) is playing in the slot on this particular passing play. While the Broncos will put cornerback Chris Harris Jr. on the other team’s top slot receiver, Cravens could be tasked with covering the team’s next best option in the passing game that would line up in the slot.
For instance, this could be a tight end or running back lined up in the slot. If that’s the case, it’s likely we’ll see Cravens lined up over them.
What he does after the ball is snapped is even more interesting.
Instincts take over, and Cravens jumps the flat route from the tight end, picking off the pass and taking it to the house for six.
Playing in the nickel is not always just about playing lock-down man coverage. Players have to be able to read plays and in a worst case scenario here, Cravens would want to make sure that tight end doesn’t catch the ball and get past the sticks. He takes it one step further.
For a player that was a hybrid safety/linebacker in college, Cravens has some phenomenal ball skills.
He’s especially good at making acrobatic interceptions, which he also did in the NFL.
Cravens had nine interceptions in three seasons at USC and picked off a pass from Eli Manning in his rookie seasons with the Redskins back in 2016.
That interception was in man-to-man coverage on a running back lined up in the slot, and the back tried to beat Cravens inside but he was all over it.
There were very few cheap interceptions I saw of Cravens’ in his time at USC. Even on balls that were initially tipped before he intercepted them, he had to make some kind of adjustment to the ball and that is a testament to his natural athletic prowess.
Cravens won’t often line up in the same spot on consecutive plays.
He is moved all over the field from the deep free safety position all the way up to the edge linebacker position.
This play is one of many I saw in his time at USC where he either came off the edge or lined up directly over an offensive lineman to blitz.
Cravens very easily beats the left tackle here to get to the quarterback, but it’s more than just that — he finishes the job.
You can blitz all you want but if you’re not affecting the play, it’s obviously pointless. Cravens racked up 10.5 sacks in his final two seasons at USC, showing a great feel for timing and the ability to wrap up and take the quarterback to the ground.
This also translates extremely well to the running game, as Cravens knifes his way through gaps and makes a lot of plays in the backfield. He finished his college career with a whopping 34.5 tackles for loss.
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Playing around and attacking the line of scrimmage is one of Cravens’ greatest strengths as a player, and a way he can help the Broncos.
Cravens’ diverse skill set will allow the Broncos to utilize him in such a great variety of ways, it will be hard to justify keeping him off the field.
As good as he is as a run defender, he’s just as good matching up with players (specifically backs and tight ends) in coverage.
There’s a reason why he was a ssecond-roundpick coming out of the 2016 NFL Draft despite not running well in the 40-yard dash or testing well athletically.
Cravens is an instinctive football player who closes on the football quickly, understands his role, and can do a lot of things really well.
He’s going to be very good for the Broncos.