Finishing the regular season as a team leader in sacks would be an honor for many players.
For Paul Kruger, leading the Ravens with nine sacks is nice, but just shy of his season-long objective.
“My goal was 10 sacks,” the outside linebacker said after Friday’s practice. “I came up one short. So I definitely envisioned myself getting to this. I wish I could’ve done more, but I’m just happy that we’re in the situation that we’re in, and I can’t wait for these next couple games.”
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Kruger credited his production to a couple factors, which appeared to coincide with his five-game stretch of at least one sack, which tied a franchise record set by Adalius Thomas.
One was his ability to overcome back spasms that bothered him early in the season.
But another was switching spots from the Sam position – which in a 3-4 scheme is on the left side of the defense’s alignment – to Rush on the right side.
“We never really asked him to play very much outside ‘backer, so to speak,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said Thursday. “When I first got here a couple of years ago, they were talking about making him a defensive end. There was talk about having him put on weight and having him be a five-technique [a defensive lineman who traditionally lines up on the outside shoulder of an offensive tackle]. He’s been moved all over the place. We asked him when [Terrell Suggs] got hurt in the offseason to probably learn the Sam linebacker. So he’s the Sam, then he’s the Rush, he’s the X in sub, he’s an end in sub [package]. To me, he’s learned a lot about our packages and just as a football player gotten a lot better, especially pass rush. But even in the running game, a lot, lot better.”
Kruger, who recorded a career-best 42 tackles, is rated as the sixth-best outside linebacker in the league by Pro Football Focus. Kruger, who has posted 12 quarterback hits and 33 hurries according to Pro Football Focus, said he is hopeful that this season is the start of a productive career.
“It feels good to have finished strong,” he said. “I wish I would’ve started faster. Had to deal with a little bit of injury and different positions and stuff like that. But it feels good. I feel like I’ve been putting in my dues. I’ve tried to fight and figure out ways to help the team and myself. So it feels really good.”