This offseason, the Baltimore Ravens lost both of their outside linebackers. Jarret Johnson was a casualty to free agency, signing a four-year deal with the Chargers, and Terrell Suggs suffered a partial tear of his Achilles tendon, which sidelined him for the first half of the season. The man responsible to fill this void was Paul Kruger.
Entering his fourth year, Paul Kruger was thrust into a starting position and immediately had some huge shoes to fill.
Kruger was selected by the Ravens in the second round of the 2009 draft and was a backup during his first three seasons. Kruger started to show a lot of promise early on, and many expected him to become a strong defensive force for the Ravens.
The biggest knock on Kruger was that we hadn’t seen him set the edge on running plays like Jarret Johnson became so adept at doing during his tenure with the Ravens. Many criticized Paul Kruger early on in the season as he was unable to get to the quarterback and offenses ran all over the Ravens’ defense. Despite the heavy criticism, Kruger continued to get better and better as the season progressed.
Twelve weeks into the 2012 NFL Season and Paul Kruger is really starting to come into his own. He now has four sacks in the last three games and is starting to become a big problem for opposing offenses.
At 6’4” 270 lbs., Kruger is deceptively quick and is capable of beating opposing tackles with pure strength or speed. Paul Kruger’s most recent sack against the Chargers showcased the former as Kruger bulldozed over the right tackle to sack Phillip Rivers on their opening drive. It was this kind of physical play that the Ravens had been missing for the majority of the season and Kruger has provided the spark to get the pass rush going in the past few weeks.
Despite the large expectations and volley of criticism, Kruger has been able to fight through it all and is now becoming one of the best defenders for the Ravens.
The former Utah Ute is hitting a hot streak at a very opportune time. The next few opponents for the Ravens have very good passing attacks and the Ravens will need to dial up the pressure in order to slow them down.
This week, he’ll be facing the Steelers, and regardless of who might be under center, you better believe that Paul Kruger will have him in the crosshairs.