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Does Su'a Cravens Have To Be Good Right Away for Redskins to Win in 2016?

After losing Junior Galette for the season, the Redskins defensive depth will be tested immediately. Does rookie safety/linebacker Su'a Cravens need to be a difference-maker right away?

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During the 2015 NFL draft, Scot "McLovin" McCloughan raced up to the podium in the second round because they believed there was a player available that was going to contribute in his rookie year. That player was the Mississippi State product Preston Smith, a 6'6" 260-pound beast of a linebacker. By the end of last season, Preston Smith was making McLovin look like a freaking genius. He registered five sacks in the final three regular season games (three in the win over Philadelphia), and notched a sack/safety in the playoff game against the Green Bay Packers. His presence is making everyone feel like the Redskins can survive the Junior Galette injury.

In the second round of the 2016 draft, McLovin once again went for a defensive player, taking Su'a Cravens, the hybrid safety/linebacker out of the University of Southern California. At 6'1" and almost 230 pounds, Cravens is a "big boy," capable of employing a physical style of play from any spot on the field. Whether he lines up at safety or linebacker, one thing is certain: he brings an athleticism that absolutely makes a difference. I have wondered aloud on recent episodes of The Audible if this would mean he will inherit some of the pass rushing opportunities now available without Galette. When I asked former Redskins linebacker Robert Henson about this, he enthusiastically agreed. Hen also made sure to remind me about another aspect of Cravens' game: his hands.

Cravens can catch the ball, but he also uses his hands in a way that reminds me of the great and recently retired Charles Tillman. Of course, Su'a has a LONG way to go before I will regularly put those names in the same sentence, but he does employ a punch when you watch him attack ball-carriers. This leads me to believe that he can be the key ingredient in the 2016 effort to increase turnovers.

We would be lucky if Su'a Cravens could develop on a similar arc as last year's second round pick, Preston Smith. Even though Smith only started two games last year (both in the final stretch of the season), he was certainly a difference-maker. I think we have all kind of grown past the idea that you have to be a "starter" to be a success--especially in your rookie year. That said, when you consider the kinds of contributions a player like Su'a Cravens could make on the field, it is hard to not see him as one of our best 11 defensive players.

When you lose a player of Junior Galette's caliber, it provides an opportunity. Given that Preston Smith was already going to be asked to pick up where he left off after the 2015 campaign, this opportunity extends to players whose roles may not be fully solidified. What is less solid than a rookie who has yet to land fully on a single position?

It says here that when the Redskins repeat as NFC East champions, we will be focusing on the contributions of a stud rookie who caused havoc on both sides of the line of scrimmage (sacks and interceptions). I have boldly predicted that he will notch at least four sacks and at least four interceptions. Unless I am mistaken, only one player did that last year: Thomas Davis of the Carolina Panthers.