PHILADELPHIA — Paul Kruger lived up to his teammates’ praise, relentlessly chasing the football and appearing significantly more aggressive than in years past.
The Baltimore Ravens’ backup outside linebacker didn’t play like a perennial benchwarmer during a 13-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles to open the preseason Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
Kruger led the team five tackles and one sack, chasing down elusive Philadelphia Eagles backup Vince Young.
The former second-round draft pick from Utah displayed a burst off the edge and he also played the run tough.
"It sucks that we lost," Kruger said. "It’s tough to lose a close game like that. We’ll look at the tape and improve. I made a couple of plays, but I was close to a tackle and a sack. Some good things and some bad things."
When the play wasn’t run in his direction, Kruger redirected and made several tackles in pursuit by using good hustle and sharp angles.
"Kruger has been killing it," outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "Kruger is the guy nobody has been talking about that’s been killing people. You can definitely tell he’s finding his niche. He’s starting to understand the game more. His awareness on things is really good. The sky’s the limit for that dude."
Kruger has had promising moments that didn’t count in the past, though.
In two NFL seasons, Kruger has recorded only a dozen tackles, one sack and an interception.
Now, he seems to be much more prepared to contribute.
"Why not?" Kruger said. "I want to do a lot of great things here, and I want to be a good player. I want to be out there every play and doing my best to help the team. I’m doing what I can to get there."
Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs notices a difference in Kruger, who has been labeled as a bust by many due to his lack of production so far in the NFL.
"I think he’s taking himself more serious," Suggs said. "I think he wants to be a player now. He definitely wants to add to the defense. I think he knows, definitely, he could make some plays on this defense.
"He’s bought in now. Not to say he didn’t before, you’d have to ask him about that, but from what I can tell, he’s really in there with the rest of us guys and he really wants to be a part of this team."
KINDLE MAKES DEBUT: One year after fracturing his skull and missing his entire rookie season, outside linebacker Sergio Kindle made his NFL debut and played fairly well.
He had two tackles, but was around the football a lot. Most importantly, there were no setbacks.
"Make plays, really," Kindle said. "Anxiety and all that stuff wasn’t there, being nervous wasn’t there because the hits that my own teammates give me, I can take that."
Kindle nearly sacked Vince Young, but got blocked at the last second.
"The running back came out of nowhere and picked me up," Kindle said. "I was a hair away. I told him that after the game, too."
Added coach John Harbaugh: "I noticed him. He was out there a lot. If you’re looking for spectacular, I don’t think it was spectacular. He played hard and did a good job."
Kindle was happy about how he played overall.
"My emotions would have been through the roof if I had got that sack," he said. "Besides that, it was great. It was great to get back on that green grass live. That’s what I’ve been waiting a whole year and change for."
ROUGH NIGHT FOR LINE: The Ravens allowed six sacks.
And rookie offensive tackle Jah Reid as well as veteran tackles Michael Oher and Oniel Cousins all had some rough moments.
"I definitely went through some growing pains out there," said Reid, who’s competing with Cousins for the right tackle job. "I definitely have a lot of room to improve. Just keep the gears in motion and come out this week just looking to get better. And that’s what I’m going to do. ..
"It’s my first NFL game and there are going to be some jitters, but football is football. Just because it’s my first game doesn’t excuse mistakes or having bad plays."
Oher was hit with 11 penalties, including eight false starts, last season to lead the offensive line and allowed seven sacks.
He gave up a sack to defensive end Trent Cole and he was hit with an illegal formation penalty on third down in the first quarter. Oher also allowed Cole to deck running back Ray Rice for a loss.
"The first preseason game, the second preseason game, you tend to know where you are by seeing different opponents," Oher said. "Next week, you’ll know a little bit better. .. We just have to get it down and be conscious of it and get off at the snap. We need to get better week to week."
Cousins had the most problems in pass protection, allowing two sacks to defensive end Darryl Tapp.
"I’m going to watch the tape and try to improve on some things I need to work on," Cousins said. "They’ve got some good players, they’re pro football players. They get paid like we get paid."
WIDE RECEIVER UPDATE: Trade rumors continue to swirl around Buffalo Bills wide receiver Lee Evans.
And the Arizona Cardinals and the Baltimore Ravens are the teams linked most often to Evans.
It’s believed that the Bills are willing to deal Evans provided they get the kind of compensation they’re seeking.
"I won’t comment on Lee specifically," Bills general manager Buddy Nix told Sirius NFL Radio. "As a whole, we’re always looking to upgrade and create competition on our roster. We’re all capable of being replaced, including me.
"Nothing’s changed with Lee. He’s a Bill. We’re counting on him. As far as I know, speculation is all it is."
Meanwhile, veteran wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Cotchery visited the AFC North franchise on Monday and took a physical followed by his visit and physical with the Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday.
The Ravens decided to pass on Cotchery and are currently going with a youth movement with rookie wide receivers Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss to work in tandem with Anquan Boldin.
A former New York Jets starter and fourth-round draft pick that underwent back surgery during the offseason, Cotchery became expendable when the team added former Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress.
The Jets signed former Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason to a one-year, $910,000 deal.
GAITHER IS A CHIEF: After visiting the Oakland Raiders earlier in free agency, former Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Jared Gaither wound up with their AFC West rival: the Kansas City Chiefs.
He signed his contract Thursday. He’s the third former Raven to sign with the Chiefs, joining nose guard Kelly Gregg and fullback Le’Ron McClain.
The 6-foot-9, 340-pound former Ravens fifth-round supplemental draft pick is an imposing, talented blocker who missed all of last season with a thoracic disc injury in his upper back that didn’t require surgery.
Gaither also had a foot injury in the offseason and lost 30 pounds, reporting to Ravens camp last year at a slim 310 pounds. He has now regained the weight.
Gaither is regarded as an enigmatic player, though, who couldn’t always be relied on. That negative factor, along with his financial demands, is the primary reasons why the Ravens didn’t keep him.
The former University of Maryland lineman has started 33 NFL games.
He was offered a basketball scholarship to the University of South Carolina out of high school, but decided to concentrate on football and was given a scholarship to play for the Terrapins.
LINEUP LOOP: The Ravens played without several starters, including center Matt Birk (knee surgery), cornerback
Domonique Foxworth (knee) and tight end Ed Dickson (hamstring).
"I have an injury and I just wanted to take it slow thus far in camp," Dickson said. "I think the coaches wanted to keep me out so I don’t hurt myself again. Watching the game, I’m very eager to get back and play."
The Ravens also scratched nose guard Brandon McKinney (knee), offensive tackle Ramon Harewood (knees), running back Matt Lawrence (undisclosed), wide receiver David Reed (wrist), wide receiver James Hardy (hamstring), newly-signed running back Ricky Williams and wide receiver Rodney Bradley.
First-round cornerback Jimmy Smith, who wasn’t slated to play due to a nagging groin injury, made a brief cameo appearance behind starters Chris Carr and Lardarius Webb. He didn’t appear to aggravate the injury in limited action.
The Ravens started rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith opposite Anquan Boldin.
Bryan Mattison, the son of former Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, started at center.
Dennis Pitta started at tight end.
Despite a neck injury that sidelined him in practice this week, linebacker Tavares Gooden played and had three tackles.
"I’m feeling a lot better," Gooden said. "It’s getting stronger."
QUICK HITS: In relief of Rice, Jalen Parmele rushed for 35 yards on seven carries. … Undrafted rookie wide receiver LaQuan Williams continued his strong preseason, catching three passes for 46 yards. … Chad Hall caught five passes for 82 yards for the Eagles. … Michael Vick completed 4 of 6 passes for 74 yards and a touchdown.