Paul Kruger's Big Game

Rob Carr

Outside linebacker/defensive end Paul Kruger had the best game of his young career on Sunday vs. the Raiders. Should we expect more to come?

The Baltimore Ravens spent a second round draft pick on linebacker Paul Kruger in 2009 in hopes that he would be the pass rushing threat opposite Terrell Suggs that the team has sorely needed for some time. In his first few seasons Kruger was rarely seen on the field due to his lack of special teams prowess and the Ravens experimentation with his weight and positional changes. Many fans had labeled him a rare early round defensive miss by general manager Ozzie Newsome.

However last season, under the aggressive schemes of defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, and a return to his natural position of outside linebacker, Kruger was impressive as a situational pass rusher for Baltimore. He tallied 5.5 sacks which was good enough for third on the team behind Suggs and rookie phenom Pernell McPhee who had six. Early in his professional career the Ravens had ideas of moving him to defensive end and had asked Paul to bulk up for the positional change. The added weight slowed down the once speedy pass rusher and the team realized their mistake and had him make the change back to outside linebacker where he would shed the added weight so he could chase down fleet footed running backs sideline to sideline and even drop into pass coverage if need be.

Well, it took some time for Kruger to re-acclimate to his former position at the NFL level but he has shown signs of dominant play since his move back to linebacker. Much of what the Ravens saw in Kruger when they drafted him was on display yesterday against the Oakland Raiders. The former Ute finished the game with five tackles, two sacks, a pass deflection and an interception. Not a bad day for someone that is widely considered a situational player at best.

The Ravens must have had at least seven pass deflections from their defensive line and after the game head coach John Harbaugh attributed their success in this area to some things they had seen on tape while watching video of Carson Palmer. Kruger took what he had seen in the film room and translated it onto the field. That is a very good sign for him and a Ravens defense in dire need of play-makers on the line of scrimmage on defense.

Kruger has had some impressive plays in the past but he has also looked pretty bad at times. In watching film of the Ravens defense from earlier this season it was Kruger who was constantly out of position on run plays and looking totally lost in pass coverage. Of course this being his first year as a starter, expected to anchor the right side of the defensive line and set the edge on running plays, some bumps in the road are to be expected. Only time will tell if Sunday's performance was just a matter of him being in the right place at the right time or a sign that he has turned the corner and the game is slowing down for him. If the Ravens could get even half the performance out of him that they got yesterday for the rest of the season their future on defense would look a whole lot brighter.

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