We've talked all week about Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed as big playmakers on the Ravens' defense, but don't lose sight of linebacker Paul Kruger. In an Insider piece posted on ESPN.com, ESPNBoston.com's Field Yates writes that the Kruger vs. Patriots offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer is a matchup that bears watching in Sunday's AFC Championship Game. Here is an excerpt from Yates:
Kruger started just six games during the regular season, as he serves as a reserve player in Baltimore's 3-4 base defense. But when the Ravens turn to their nickel 4-2-5 defense, it's Kruger who triggers the change as he aligns on the end of the line (typically to the defense's left) and plays with a hand in the dirt as a rusher.
The Patriots, of course, operate at an unrivaled tempo on offense, and the Ravens are nearly certain to primarily usher their sub defense -- including Kruger -- onto the field to slow them down. That was the case back in Week 3 when the two teams squared off, and it figures to repeat itself on Sunday.
Kruger has produced 10 sacks over his past 10 games and has been extremely disruptive in two postseason games thus far. Kruger can get after the passer in a multitude of ways, with very good first-step quickness, difficult-to-handle length (as alluded to by Belichick), excellent use of his hands and the vision to see the play evolve.
He's been far and away the best 3-4 outside linebacker this postseason, according to Pro Football Focus, while Vollmer, the third-best right tackle during the regular season, registered his best game of the season against Houston last Sunday, per Pro Football Focus.
Click HERE to read the full story (Insider access needed).