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Kruger wants to fulfill expectations

Posted Dec 11, 2013

Senior Editor Vic Carucci says Browns outside linebacker Paul Kruger acknowledges that he hasn’t put up the numbers that were expected from him as a high-profile free agent.

Paul Kruger makes no attempt to hide from the harsh reality of his first year with the Cleveland Browns.

“I definitely haven’t had the season I wanted to as far as numbers go,” the fifth-year veteran outside linebacker said.

The “numbers” to which Kruger is referring are the ones in his sack total. In 13 games, he has only four.

That’s far less than what was expected from one the highest-profile free agents acquired during the offseason.

Kruger received a handsome payday on the strength of the career-best nine sacks he had last season with the Baltimore Ravens. He added four-and-a-half more in the postseason, including two in the Ravens’ Super Bowl XLVII victory against San Francisco. The two tied for the third-most in Super Bowl history.

But two sacks were all that Kruger had through 12 games. He finally added two more in last Sunday’s 27-26 loss at New England.

Kruger readily acknowledges that he has felt a great deal pressure to deliver on the massive investment the Browns made in him.

“Yeah, yeah, absolutely,” he said. “Not only do I put high standards up for myself, but you come in with a high bar and you want to live up to those. People have been great to me here and for me, I feel like a personal responsibility to be a good player and to produce.

“So, yeah, there’s definitely been some pressure I’ve felt.”

Some of that was relieved against the Patriots.

Kruger not only sacked Tom Brady twice, but also consistently generated pressure that disrupted the New England quarterback whose quick release and solid protection had kept him upright for most of the season. And that helped the Browns’ other outside linebackers, Jabaal Sheard and rookie Barkevious Mingo, pick up a sack apiece.

“I think it was the combination of things,” Kruger said of his breakout performance. “One, they’re a team that throws the ball a lot, and naturally with that, you have more opportunities. It’s easier to see when they’re going to throw the ball, so you can kind of pin your ears back and just go.

“I think they threw the ball 52 times, so that’s 52 opportunities to get a sack. And just the way the game was going. We were leading the game a lot, so they were kind of put in a position where they had to throw the ball. I think Jabaal and Mingo, I mean those guys are incredible athletes. They work hard and they’ve been dedicated and we’ve made that, in our room as outside ’backers, we’ve made that a goal and an effort for us and something we’ve focused on as doing better at that.”

Still, their combined efforts weren’t enough to produce a win.

The Browns squandered a 12-point lead with 2:39 left, and, frankly, that takes away from whatever relief or joy Kruger felt over how he played against the Patriots.

“Everybody’s fighting, trying to do their best,” he said. “It’s tough to lose a game like that, because it just felt like we were doing all the right things, putting ourselves in good positions, and it just got away from us at the end.

“The bottom line is winning. That’s really what matters most. That’s the most important thing to me and everybody else around here. But everybody sets their personal goals and has things you want to accomplish.

“Unfortunately, I haven’t done what I wanted to as far as getting the number of sacks I wanted to and all those things. I’m just still trying to fight and finish this season strong. But it’s about winning games and doing the most for the team. Hopefully, we can finish strong and continue to build these next couple of games.”

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>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/viccarucci or by e-mail at daily@clevelandbrowns.com or by calling 855-363-2459.

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