BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 30: Paul Kruger #99 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates after sacking quarterback Kevin Kolb #4 of the Arizona Cardinals (not pictured) during the second half at M&T Bank Stadium on October 30, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
The loss of veteran outside linebacker Jarret Johnson, who signed with the San Diego Chargers means, as this morning's story, 'Next Man Up,' says, the time is now for current Baltimore Ravens LB Paul Kruger to do just that. Johnson's loss needs to be Kruger's gain. The 4th year player ut of Utah was drafted mainly for his ability to terrorize opposing quarterbacks and while the Ravens will want him to play with his hand out of the dirt now, he must be ready to produce or slip way back on the depth chart to remain a part-time situation-only pass rusher.
Kruger could easily become the next great Ravens linebacker, following a long list of guys who have made their mark on this team and then sought greener pastures yet mediocrity once they left. However, if Kruger wants those greener pastures, be it from the Ravens or another team, he'll have to prove his worth and his opportunity is right now in front of him.
At 6'4" and 265 pounds, he is the perfect size for this position. Paul has already shown flashes of his ability to pay off the line as he made the key play a couple of years ago when he picked off backup QB Dennis Dixon in overtime to set up the game winning field goal when the Ravens defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Kruger may have competition for Johnson's spot from third year OLB Sergio Kindle, who like Kruger, is a recent 2nd round draft pick that has not lived up to the pre-draft potential. Kruger has a year's more experience on Kindle so he should be much more familiar with the Ravens scheme and has received a lot more playing time as that situational pass rusher.
The Ravens may still opt to draft a pure outside linebacker who is more experienced form his college career and perhaps can step right in and start. However, as it appears a day after losing Double-J to free agency, the job will be Kruger's to lose.