Baltimore Ravens fans have often compared Paul Kruger to former Raven Dan Cody. Both were second round draft picks who could have been first round picks had it not been for physical ailments that chased some teams away.
And both have been major disappointments.
Cody could never get on the field. Perhaps his body was not built to hold the muscle mass he developed. He broke down often and today he is out of football and has been so for close to 3 years now.
Kruger hasn’t developed his game enough to earn more snaps. He backs up Terrell Suggs and Jarret Johnson, both superior players. However at some point players have to step up, play with their hair on fire and stand out on tape. And if Kruger does, defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano will find a way to get him snaps, particularly if he can put a hat on a quarterback.
But that is up to Kruger. If he fails to step up in 2011 he will validate the fans’ comparisons to Cody and like the former Sooner, the Utah Ute Kruger could be done after 3 seasons in Baltimore.
Speaking of last calls in Baltimore will this be Kelly Gregg’s swansong? Will he even be with the team in 2011?
Gregg’s effectiveness has diminished rapidly over the past two seasons yet the team from top to bottom remains steadfast in their support of the often underappreciated defensive tackle. There have been murmurs that Gregg remained the starter in 2010 largely out of respect for past contributions. And while the NFL is largely a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, it seems that Gregg’s accomplishments, largely unnoticed by many, earned him snaps in 2010 that weren’t justified by the quality of his play.
Given the team’s enthusiasm over the potential of Terrence Cody and Arthur Jones, Gregg’s playing time could drop precipitously and if it does, it will be hard for Ozzie Newsome & Company to justify a $4.3 million salary and cap number in 2011 for “Buddy Lee” no matter how liked and respected he is.
The Ravens’ secondary will have a new look this season beginning of course with the addition of CB Jimmy Smith. But the changes will not stop there.
Chris Carr, Josh Wilson and Dawan Landry are all likely to be free agents while CB Domonique Foxworth is expected to return from an ACL tear. Carr has been a long-time favorite of Chuck Pagano’s and to a large extent, he’s the reason Carr has been a Raven going back to their days together in Oakland.
Wilson is from Maryland and he has a strong bond with both Foxworth and rookie WR Torrey Smith – all three former Terrapins. Yet it seems doubtful that the team will be able to keep both Carr and Wilson and that might give the talented but untested Cary Williams a chance to compete for some playing time.
As for Lardarius Webb, he looks to rebound from an inconsistent 2010. Now that his knee has fully recovered the Ravens may line Webb up at the nickel corner more frequently and ask him to blitz from that spot on occasion – something the aggressive Pagano is likely to do more of than predecessor Greg Mattison.
At safety the odds appear better than 50-50 that Dawan Landry will move on. He’s a liability in coverage and his tackling has not been as sure or as forceful as it once was prior to suffering from a concussed spinal cord a couple of seasons ago.
Ozzie Newsome has shown in the past that he’s willing to move away from players when they no longer fit the bill of “right player, right price.” Former safeties Kim Herring, Will Demps and Jim Leonhard all moved on to greener pastures when Newsome believed that the returns no longer justified the price tag.
And finally I’d like to express my deepest and most sincere condolences to the friends and family of John Aull, Jr. who was the tragic victim of a vehicular fatality early Sunday morning.
During the brief times I spent with John it was obvious that he was a lover of life, mankind and possessed an infectious and fun-loving spirit. Just 27 years young, John was a sales executive for the sports talkers around town, namely CBS Radio, V 1370 and WNST.
Rest in peace John, you will be missed.