Why is Paul Kruger on fire?
- The biggest surprise to a pocket of Browns fans so far in 2014? Paul Kruger. Some wondered last season if Cleveland had shelled out more than what Kruger was worth, just to pry him from the despised Ravens. Kruger was decent last season, often harassing quarterbacks, but rarely finishing the job. He ended 2013 with just 4.5 sacks, after recording nine the previous season in Baltimore.
- Last week we wrote the biggest improvement Kruger made was refining his technique, which made him quicker off the ball. Pettine further explained this system has fit the shaggy-haired linebacker like a glove.
- "We'll give him some freedom with some of his pass rushes where we rarely talk in terms on contain," said Pettine. "As a pass rusher, if a tackle presents him with a…it's an over-set situation and he can come underneath we can give him the green light to do that. I think the guys that have played in it, some of the feedback you get is, 'Hey, they kind of let me be me.' There's structure, but there's some ability to freelance within it, as long as it's tied in with everybody else and there's some awareness of that."
*Mike Pettine on the Baltimore Ravens, the team who gave him his NFL start
- Pettine's NFL roots began with the Ravens video department in 2001. Longing for football to be more than just Friday night's under the high school lights, Pettine dove straight in and proved to the Baltimore coaching staff he was willing to handle as much as they could put on his plate.
- "People say, 'Be seen and not heard,' I was in the not-be-seen and not-be-heard, mode," Pettine said, while reporters chuckled. "A big part of it is just getting in. It was just bunker in and work a lot of long days.
- As time passed, Pettine proved to other Baltimore assistant coaches like Rex Ryan, Mike Nolan and Mike Smith that he indeed was capable of coaching a certain position group. In addition to his video department responsibilities, Pettine did extra work at nights with quality control and showed he was computer savvy. By the time 2004 rolled around, Pettine was promoted to the assistant defensive line coach and from 2005-2008, he was in control of the linebackers.
- "I was just very fortunate to just step into a situation where it was just Mike Nolan, Mike Smith, Rex [Ryan], guys who were just future head coaches in the league," said Pettine. "I was essentially just dropped into that situation."
- Without even being asked specifically about Baltimore's receivers, Pettine brought them up. Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith will challenge the Browns' secondary deep and Steve Smith, Sr. can pick a defense apart underneath.
- Pettine said there are similarities between the Browns and Ravens' offensive playbook, but you can't exactly tear off the cover and not know which offense is which. Of course, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and Gary Kubiak's roots stem from Mike Shanahan's days of power-running football in Denver. The passing concepts are different, but at the end of the day the Ravens and Browns' philosophies are the same: running the ball means you are in control of the game.
- The Browns coaching staff has also noted what we wrote earlier today: Baltimore plays physical, and if you can't match their strength and intensity, you'll likely lose. Since winning their first Super Bowl in 2001, the Ravens have built a reputation for being "nasty," says Pettine. Eventually the Browns want to be thought of the same way.
- "They called them double chinstrap games," recalled Pettine of coaching with the Ravens and describing the AFC North. "You knew that – both teams – that the ice tubs were going to be filled up after the game. That was just the nature of the division."
News and Notes
- Running back Ben Tate hasn't officially been ruled out against the Ravens, but if he plays, it'll be a shock.
- Tight end Jordan Cameron and linebacker Barkevious Mingo, possibly the Browns' two most athletic players, are both still dealing with nagging shoulder injuries. They will be limited participants of practice on Monday.
- Pettine, who grew up a big Philadelphia Eagles fan, had a poster of star running back Wilbert Montgomery in his room – right next to the Farrah Fawcett one. The wisecrack had media members snorting with laughter. Pettine was thrilled when he was able to pluck Montgomery from the Ravens this offseason to coach his running backs.
- "I mean my hands were shaking when I met him – he's Wilbert Montgomery," said Pettine with a smile. "I learned very quickly just what a good football coach he is. He's passionate. He's tough. I think you need at least one [coach] like that."