With all the talk of the weakness that is the Baltimore Raven secondary, little mention is being made of the front seven’s ability and the necessity for that unit to collapse the pocket in 2010. Reed and Webb can only heal as fast as their bodies allow them to, but the pass rush can be a factor from Opening Day on. Of the many story lines to follow when the Ravens take the field on Saturday night vs. Washington, I will be most intrigued by the defensive line play, especially that of second year man Paul Kruger.
John Harbaugh had this to say earlier this week about the strides the now defensive end has made in camp: “Kruger’s technique is getting a lot better. He’s playing lower. He’s more explosive. I guess you’d say football-parlance, he’s playing behind his pads a lot better, and he’s been more physical as a result of that. So, he’s really… I’d say in the last three of four days he’s made huge strides.”
Will those strides travel into game play this weekend? The Ravens sure hope so. Kruger didn’t have much impact as a rookie playing outside linebacker. Other than the interception of Dennis Dixon in the Pittsburgh game last November, Kruger never seemed totally comfortable playing in space as a linebacker. He has bulked up and move back to playing with his hand on the ground, as he did in college at Utah. Any pass rush he can provide from the ground will help take double teams off of Suggs, and lessen the need to send blitz packages to cover up the shaky secondary.
The fact that he is playing more physical sends a message to me that he is not only stronger and more agile than he was in 2009, but also feeling more comfortable with his place in the scheme. Ozzie Newsome spent a 2nd round pick on this guy because he believes he can rush the quarterback. While most fans will be locked onto the offensive line and secondary as areas of concern this week, I will be watching Kruger. If he is collapsing the pocket early and forcing Donovan McNabb to throw before he is ready, Raven fans can breath a sigh of relief about their thin secondary.