It would be fair to say that Paul Kruger was a little displeased with his amount of playing time in his rookie year.
Now, with the 2009 season behind him, it will interesting to see how much game action Kruger sees in the coming years.
To head coach John Harbaugh, the main issue limiting Kruger is a simple one - he's blocked on the depth chart by three-time Pro Bowler Terrell Suggs, a guy who just signed a six-year, $63 million contract last offseason.
"I think Paul Kruger, and we've said this all along, he's on his way to being a heck of a player," Harbaugh said last week. "We have no disappointment in Paul Kruger whatsoever. Paul Kruger backed up Terrell Suggs this year. He played when Terrell was hurt, and played very well. I think it's hard to say that he's going to get as much playing time as you would like by the fact that he has a great player in front of him."
$63 million men obviously don't spend too much time on the bench, especially when they're potential game-changers like Suggs. As a result, for Kruger to work his way into an expanded role, he'll have to make some changes.
One of those changes could be improved play on special teams, an area that Kruger didn't have to focus on in college. If you're not a starter in the NFL, you need to be a contributor on special teams if you expect to be on the active roster game-in and game-out.
"He's got to do some things from a special teams perspective, maybe, to be a backup linebacker over some of the other guys," Harbaugh said. "But that's not something he's ever played before. He was a pass-rushing guy in college, and that's not something those guys usually do. So, he'll learn that in the offseason. He can't wait to get started on that."
Another change, a more dramatic change, could be moving Kruger back to the defensive end spot that he played at Utah.
Not only would that probably be a more comfortable position for Kruger to play, but it is one of the Ravens' main areas of need. Trevor Pryce is aging and isn't a lock to come back next season because of a $4.5 million base salary for 2010, and Dwan Edwards is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, so bolstering the defensive end position is something the Ravens need to focus on.
But at this point, Kruger doesn't quite have the size to play D-end at the NFL level. At his current 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, Kruger might get pushed around if he was a down lineman, so to make the transition to that spot, he would have to spend the offseason adding weight and muscle.
Harbaugh doesn't know exactly where Kruger will fit into the Ravens' plans next season, but he says the team will work on getting the 23-year-old more involved on game days.
"We'll see - rush linebacker, defensive end, depending on much weight, strength and size he puts on - but he'll be in that mix for sure next year," Harbaugh said. "I'll expect him playing a lot."