Redskins go defense, select Su'a Cravens with 53rd pick
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) After boosting their offense in the first round, the Washington Redskins turned their focus to defense on Day Two of the NFL draft.
Selecting hybrid linebacker/safety Su'a Cravens from USC with the 53rd pick and defensive back Kendall Fuller from Virginia Tech with the 84th pick, the Redskins took a big step toward improving a unit that ranked 28th in the NFL last season.
''We're just trying to add good football players to this team and we'll figure out who's playing where and how to get the receivers the ball, what have you,'' coach Jay Gruden said Friday night. ''The important thing here and the goal of this draft was to sign the best players we can, draft the best players we can.''
The Redskins a week ago signed elite free agent cornerback Josh Norman to a five-year deal. Following the pick of TCU wide receiver Josh Doctson at 22nd overall in the first round, Washington has drastically changed the look of its defense by adding Cravens and Fuller.
The 6-foot-1, 226-pound Cravens is expected to be a dime linebacker for Washington.
''That's a spot where I can fit right in the defense,'' Cravens said on a conference call. ''You can be a playmaker. You can come sit down and be ready to protect against the run and then also be in space and cover and show your athleticism. It gives me a chance to use my instincts and just be in the right position to make plays.''
Gruden likes the versatility Cravens provides as far as coverage, stopping the run and rushing the passer. He called Cravens a ball-hawk and a ''turnover machine.''
Cravens compared himself to Arizona Cardinals linebacker Deone Bucannon, who's also a bit undersized.
''He plays a lot bigger than what he is, and he makes plays in open space and he's very physical when it comes to the point of attack,'' Cravens said. ''I think I'll do a lot of the same things he does.''
Cravens doesn't mind being smaller than the average linebacker, pointing to technique as the reason he succeeds.
''If you look at my film the past two years, I was an undersized linebacker that was in the trenches taking on tackles, guards and fullbacks out the backfield, getting off blocks and making plays,'' he said. ''So I think it's just the attitude you carry, the mentality that you have and how physical you want to be.''
Cravens has a Redskins connection to defensive coordinator Joe Barry, who recruited him to USC out of high school but left before he arrived. Barry interrupted his vacation to witness Cravens' pro day, and the impression was strong enough to make him Washington's pick.
Fuller was projected as a first-round pick before suffering a right knee injury last fall. A meniscus repair turned into a microfracture surgery that cost him the rest of the season, but the Redskins saw him as worth the risk.
''He's too talented of a player to pass up,'' Gruden said.
The Redskins' connection with Dr. James Andrews, who did Fuller's surgery, doesn't hurt. Neither does the fact that brothers Vincent, Corey and Kyle have already gone from Virginia Tech to the NFL.
''Being able to learn from their experiences, their past and just soaking up that knowledge and really kind of being able to understand the game fully and things like that definitely benefited me a lot,'' Fuller said on a conference call.
Fuller said the movement is back in his knee and he just needs to build up some strength. Gruden expects the Baltimore native to be ready for OTAs, or at worst training camp.
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