Since entering the NFL as a second-round draft pick two seasons ago, Ravens defensive end Paul Kruger has contributed 12 tackles and just one memorable play -- an overtime interception against Dennis Dixon and the Steelers in 2009. But Kruger feels he "should have more of a starting role" for the Ravens in 2011.
“I feel like this year coming up, I should have more of a starting role, and if not, something real serious, playing at least 50 percent of the plays if not more,” Kruger, 25, who attended college at the University of Utah, recently told a television station in Salt Lake City, according to Mike Duffy of the Ravens’ website.
Kruger has already persevered through much more than a roster battle, so it will be hard not to root for the guy in training camp. He will presumably compete with defensive end Cory Redding for a spot in the starting lineup. He bulked up last year to move from outside linebacker to the defensive line, and didn’t seem comfortable with his new body at a new position. His lone tackle in 11 games was a sack in Week 11.
“I’ve been getting more time over the past two years,” Kruger told WARN-TV. “Last year, I started playing a lot more on passing downs and in two-minute situations, so I’m getting a lot of time.”
But he hasn’t done enough in that time to silence his critics. It’s too soon to call Kruger a bust -- he has one more year to fight off that label -- but he needs to have a productive 2011 season to avoid becoming an afterthought on a deep defensive line that includes second-year end Arthur Jones and rookie Pernell McPhee. Those two will also attempt to overtake Redding on the depth chart.
The Ravens would like Kruger to step up and earn that starting role, but he’s going to have to outwork those other guys to get it.