By Samuel Njoku
Paul Kruger, OLB, #99
Hometown: Orem, UT
Experience: 4 years
With the departure of Jarrett Johnson, Baltimore would call on Paul Kruger to fill his spot. Though not receiving much playing time prior to the roster change, Kruger showed flashes of brilliance throughout his time in Baltimore. With extended playing time, the Ravens hoped to create another star in the vaunted Ravens’ defense. Based on his past accolades, Kruger looks up to the challenge.
Paul Kruger didn’t always picture himself as a starting linebacker for a NFL franchise. In fact, he played quarterback at Timpanaogos High School for 4 years. And he was pretty good at it. Paul Kruger was an All-Conference quarterback as a senior in high school. As a team captain, Kruger was ranked in the top 30 high school quarterbacks nationally by Student Sports.
When Kruger signed with the University of Utah, it was with the intention of him playing quarterback. The young quarterback would sit as a redshirt in his freshman year. The following year, he would leave Utah to embark on a two year mission with the Church of Latter-day Saints. When he returned, it was with a clear intention of starting at defensive end and competing for a National Championship.
In 2007, he was named second-team Freshman All-American as he registered 63 tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble, and an interception. The former high school quarterback made the transition to defensive end in stellar fashion. In 2008, it was more of the same for Kruger as he would record 7.5 sacks. Kruger knew that he could take his game to the next level and would forego his junior and senior year to become eligible for the draft.
The Ravens, who are always looking for hybrid defensive players, fell in love with Kruger’s versatility. Baltimore would use Kruger as a linebacker and defensive end, much in the same way they used JJ and Suggs. Kruger struggled making the transition from college to pro football and wouldn’t see his production increase until 2011. He finished the year with 5.5 sacks in the regular season as well as one in the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots.
In his first full season as a starter, Kruger is hoping to take advantage of the opportunity in 2012.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Kruger told reporters earlier this year. “I couldn’t ask to be in a better situation.”
Half way through the season, Kruger seems to be finally settling in and making an impact. In the game against Oakland, Kruger registered an interception along with two sacks. This is the kind of play Baltimore’s scouting team recognized when watching him at Utah. When asked about his performance, Paul was quick to deflect the attention to the rest of the team.
“I think a lot of guys are really starting to come around, and this defense is starting to gel together,” said Kruger on Sunday. “Things are kind of rolling our way. It’s just a matter of us putting the right things together, and trying to make plays. We did that today. And I think it’s going to keep getting better.”
If the defense does improve, he will most certainly have a lot to do with it.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.