The path to the quarterback is rarely twisted nowadays for
Overpowering offensive tackles, Kruger has generated four sacks over the past three games heading into Sunday's
"I love rushing the passer," said Kruger, a 2009 second-round draft pick from the University of Utah. "It's pure intensity. It takes a little bit of technique, but you basically just do whatever it takes to get to the quarterback. It takes a lot of energy and effort, so I go as hard as I can.
"I've been playing football since I was a little kid, and I love the game. I love the intensity of football. It's the only sport where you have to play 100 percent full-speed the entire time."
Leading the Ravens with 5.5 sacks despite starting only twice, Kruger has relied upon his athleticism, aggressiveness and a burgeoning understanding of how to leverage blockers.
During the first quarter of a 16-13 overtime victory last week over the
"Kruger's the most natural healthy pass rusher the Ravens have," said former Ravens scout Daniel Jeremiah, who's currently an
A similar scenario unfolded against the Steelers earlier this month during a 13-10 win at Heinz Field.
Kruger overwhelmed rookie offensive tackle
"White lightning, man," strong safety
"Jared is a bigger body than Kruger, but he's very similar with his hands, with his feet. He's a smart player. Krug' is capable of going out there and doing big things."
Kruger overcame plenty of adversity to get to this point.
A gang attack nearly cost Kruger his life four years ago in Salt Lake City during his younger brother's recruiting visit to Utah, leaving him with a zigzag scar across his torso that resembles railroad tracks.
It provides a reminder of the stab wounds to his abdomen and ribs.
Kruger underwent four hours of surgery to repair his injuries, including a collapsed lung filled with blood. Surgeons removed portions of his stomach and intestines.
It wasn't the first time that Kruger ended up in a hospital for emergency surgery.
When Kruger was 13 years old, he was four-wheeling in a Jeep Wrangler when it flipped and rolled on top of him. His kidney and spleen were damaged so badly that they had to be removed.
"I'm extremely blessed," Kruger said. "I've been through a lot of different things. It's definitely been something I've been able to draw from in life. You go through hard things and you see yourself and what you're going through.
But when Kruger entered the
"I've matured a lot," said Kruger, who has a career-high 31 tackles. "I had never had money before in my life. You start being around a lot of different influences. I learned the hard way, being around bad agents, being around girls, being around parties.
"You start to realize, 'This is not the path I want to go down, this is not who I am.' A little bit of that stuff is OK, but you got to learn how to control it."
Getting to the quarterback
Kruger only had 1.5 sacks through three games and went without a sack for four consecutive weeks prior to breaking out with two sacks against the
Now, he's on a tear.
"Paul's playing really well," Ravens coach
Against the Raiders, Kruger had a season-high six tackles and an interception.
One reason attriibuted to Kruger's success is simplifying his role to more of a pure pass-rushing approach.
It hasn't gone unnoticed despite Kruger's desire to fly under the radar.
With Adams sidelined with an injury,
"He's a talented rusher," Steelers coach
That skill set may pay dividends for Kruger, either in Baltimore or another NFL city as a free agent.
Kruger's in the final year of a $2.847 million rookie contract, and would prefer to stay in Baltimore.
"Absolutely, I love this team, I love my teammates," Kruger said. "There's nothing I want more than to remain a Raven, but I haven't really thought about it. Everything is great here, the way they treat us, the fans, it's an awesome place to play. I would love to be here."
Pollard is convinced that a major payday awaits Kruger.
Pass rushers are a valuable commodity.
"Paul's setting himself up for the future," Pollard said. "I think he has a good shot at breaking the bank because this league, this team, we want pass rushers. We want guys who can rush the quarterback and Paul is a heck of a guy to do that."