When the opposing running back takes off to the outside, the defense must react accordingly. The outside linebacker needs to set the edge, preventing the running back from getting around the outside. At the same time, he must be able to fight off the blocks that direct him away from the play.
Too often, Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Paul Kruger, either does not set that edge or he gets moved to the outside where the offense wanted him anyway, to open a huge hole off tackle where the play was originally designed to go. In Sunday's 31-29 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, this was clearly evident all too often. Unfortunately, Kruger was on the guilty side of the play, which led to not only the Cowboy's first touchdown, but contributed greatly to Dallas' 227 rushing yards on the day.
After having perhaps his best game as an outside linebacker against the Kansas City Chiefs last week, Kruger regressed to the issues that have plagued him all season. There never was a question as to whether or not he could rush the passer from the outside, but could he drop back into coverage and stop the run without committing to the initial fake? Sadly, the answer continues to be no, with the proof being int he pudding, with the evidence clearly visible in this GIF below.
At some point, the Ravens NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Terrell Suggs, is expected back from his Achilles Tendon injury. Although he technically will be eligible to return for the game this Sunday at the Houston Texans, the more logical thought is for him to return in week nine at the Cleveland Browns, after the team's bye in week eight.
With Suggs return, the team will have to look at both Kruger and rookie Courtney Upshaw to determine which one complements Suggs' skills the best. With Ray Lewis lost for the season, the depth at both inside and outside linebacker is tenuous at best, so the need for quality play out of what the team has is increased, as is the urgency to get Suggs back and up to speed as soon as intelligently possible.
The loss of cornerback Lardarius Webb only magnifies the scope of the issue. With the Ravens best cover corner out of the defensive backfield, the need to pressure the quarterback intensifies proportionately. With 14 tackles, two passes defensed and only 1.5 sacks, it's becoming unfortunately obvious that Paul Kruger is not only not doing it against the run, but not as a pass rusher either.