Paul Kruger Now Has His Long-Awaited Chance

With a starting OLB job open, Kruger can prove he’s both a pass rusher and a run stuffer.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 at 11:10 am | Categories: 2012 Offseason, Ryan Mink

When Paul Kruger was drafted in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft, he had grand visions of being the next great Ravens defender.

Only problem was he had future Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs and team ironman Jarret Johnson ahead of him.

But now with Johnson in San Diego, Kruger sees his opportunity to become a starter.

“It’s just nice to have the avenue,” Kruger said on Monday, the first day of the Ravens strength and conditioning program.

“Maybe I need[ed] to mature or whatever it was the first couple years, but it’s hard when you’re behind All-Stars and you’re not sure how you’re going to get there. This year is definitely going to be a big one for me and I’m going to do what I have to do to make it happen.”

Kruger said it was tough to see Johnson, his best friend on the team, leave. He said Johnson taught him a lot, from the way to work to the way to study and be a professional.

Kruger said he still keeps in touch with Johnson, and may have a fishing trip with him later this offseason. He can still ask for advice.

The now four-year veteran will have the task of moving from more of just a pass-rushing role – in which he excelled last season with 5.5 sacks – to an all-around role that includes setting the edge and stuffing the run.

Head Coach John Harbaugh has expressed confidence that Kruger can evolve. After Johnson signed with the Chargers, Harbaugh went through all of Kruger’s tape and determined he was ready. He called Kruger to let him know he was the guy.

“I felt awesome,” Kruger said of getting that call. “I look up to Coach a lot, I respect him and I trust in what he says. To hear that faith in me, it was a big deal. I appreciated it. Now I’ve just got to go out and prove it. I still have a lot to learn in terms of the position.”

Kruger worked closely with Linebackers Coach Ted Monachino last season, learning the ins and outs of outside linebacker after spending time at defensive end the previous season.

The 6-foot-4, 265 pounder also gained confidence from simply getting more playing time last season. After being active for a combined 20 games in his first two years, Kruger played in all 16 last season, making 15 tackles.

He said he’s always felt strong against the run, and that it was actually what he was known for in college. He made 63 total tackles in 2007 and 56 in 2008 as a redshirt sophomore before declaring for the draft.

Kruger said he hasn’t put on any additional bulk this offseason.

“I’m fully confident. It’s just a matter of taking the reps on the field and being in that position,” Kruger said. “I feel just as confident against the run as against the pass.”

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