Kruger Realizes It’s His Time

Outside linebacker/defensive end Paul Kruger is looking “great” in his third year.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Thursday, August 4th, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Categories: Ryan Mink

Like most rookies, outside linebacker/defensive end Paul Kruger had grand visions of what his NFL career would look like early on.

Going into his third season, Kruger’s resume has 20 games played, 12 tackles and one sack.

Now the 2009 second-round pick feels this could be the year he breaks out.

“The more time goes the more you realize that you should be doing good things,” Kruger said. “You feel a little bit of that anxiousness.”

The Ravens are looking for a pass-rushing presence opposite Terrell Suggs, who notched a team-high 11 last season.

Sergio Kindle could be the answer, as he has returned to the field from a serious head injury. Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson could be too, as he said he feels stronger and healthier this year than in year’s past.

Kruger is also heavily in that mix.

Suggs, who has mentored the youngster, has noticed a difference in Kruger.

“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.”

Asked what’s changed for him, Kruger said it’s been a product of more time learning. It’s knowing how coaches want him to work, how the team generally operates and how he fits in the Ravens’ defensive scheme, Kruger said.

In his first season, Kruger was learning how to be more of a stand-up outside linebacker as opposed to a hand-in-the-dirt rusher. Then last year he bulked up and became a 3-4 end. The Utah product has been performing in a hybrid role thus far in camp.

“I feel like the experience is catching up to me,” Kruger said. “As soon as you have a better understanding of the system, it’s easier to go full speed and let your body kind of take over.”

Kruger’s body has also undergone a makeover. As Suggs said, he’s got “buffness.”

During the lockout, Kruger worked out with his two younger brothers, who are both defensive ends like him, at Utah. Dave is a 6-foot-5, 285-pound junior and Joe is a 6-foot-7, 270-pound sophomore. So at 6-foot-4, 268 pounds, Kruger’s the smallest.

His work has showed on the field, where Kruger has looked quick off the snap and been better in one-on-one situations. He’s applied solid pressure.

Head Coach John Harbaugh said Kruger looked “great” after this past Saturday’s practice.

“I have high aspirations,” Kruger said. “I’m trying to work hard and establish myself and I feel things are going pretty well.”

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