2012 Players To Watch: Paul Kruger

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)

Last season Paul Kruger finally showed why the Ravens used a second round draft pick on him. Having spent his first two seasons buried on the depth chart behind some of the leagues best players and not participating on special teams, Kruger was having a very hard time getting on the field on game days.

In 2011 Kruger finally got to show what he can do and he did not fail to impress. Used mostly on third downs as a situational pass rusher, he finished the season with six sacks in his limited time. At times he was dominant, showing off a devastating spin move and great tackling ability once he got to pay dirt.

In his first few seasons with the Ravens the team toyed with the idea of having him transition to a defensive end to try and get him on the field more. They asked Kruger to gain some weight and spend more time with his hand in the dirt scuffling with tackles and using more of a bull rush. The transition did not go as planned as Kruger lost speed as he gained weight and speed and agility, the two things that made him a successful pass rusher in college.

2012 will be a whole different role for Paul Kruger. The Ravens lost both Jarret Johnson and Terrell Suggs and while Suggs may return at some point in the season, Kruger will be the staring outside linebacker for the majority of the season barring any unforeseen circumstances. He was a good run stopper in college and it is yet to be seen how he will perform as a three down player, playing the run, the rush and the pass.

However things shake out for Kruger and the Ravens defense in 2012, at least we will finally know what he is capable of as an every day player. The situation for him coudn't be any better though. he has had plenty of time to learn the system and he has some of the most dominant players in the league playing around him every day that will surly bring out his best.

The play of Paul Kruger, Pernell McPhee, Albert McClellan and rookie Courtney Upshaw will go a long way in determining how the Ravens run defense performs in 2012. Making Kruger a player to keep an eye on from the first snap of the season.

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