Jason Bridge-US PRESSWIRE
Ravens' Kruger may be proving he is the missing link
The Baltimore Ravens have been searching for the bookend pass-rusher to Terrell Suggs for a long time now. They drafted OLB Sergio Kindle, despite his troubled past, in hopes that he could fill that roll. They brought in Cory Redding in a stop gap role until they found the guy they wanted. They even originally drafter Paul Kruger to be that guy.
The Ravens had huge expectations for Kruger but they just weren't sure in what way he would most help the team. Kruger was drafted as an outside linebacker but at the time the Ravens were extremely deep at the position. He was behind Suggs, Jarrett Johnson, Bart Scott and others for a while.Plus, he wasn't a special teams player so the coaches didn't get as much work in with him.
The Ravens decided to move him to defensive end and have him bulk up a bit for the position. This idea turned out to be a bad one because the weight he had put on to battle with gigantic tackle and guards slowed him down and hindered his most prolific asset, his speed rush.
The Ravens organization then decided to move Kruger back to his outside linebacker position and, although it took some time, they are starting to see in him what they had hoped they would when they drafted him. Last season Kruger was used as a situational pass rusher and he played very well. This season they have asked him to play more of the traditional linebacker role and, although it took him some time to adjust to the game at the NFL level, he now seems to be not only getting the game but playing at a dominant level.
This is the second week in a row where Paul Kruger has been our most dominant pass rusher and the Steelers even needed to put a double team on him at half time to adjust. That , plus the emergence of rookie Courtney Upshaw as a versatile run stopper and pass rusher. Good things may be on the horizon in Baltimore. With Suggs and Haloti Ngata getting healthier and Kruger and Upshaw finally finding their niche, the Ravens defense could be in for a much needed turn around. They dominated the run against Pittsburgh. If They can do that against them, they can do it against anyone.