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Spotlight on: Paul Kruger

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Spotlight on: Paul Kruger

(One of a series of articles exploring the status of individual players on the Ravens as the 2012 season approaches.)

You could argue that no player on the Ravens is under more pressure in 2012 than Paul Kruger. Maybe Joe Flacco, but that's about it.

Crucial questions abound as Kruger, a fourth-year linebacker, becomes a starter for the first time in the wake of Jarret Johnsons departure for San Diego and Terrell Suggs Achilles injury.

Has Kruger really developed into a three-down defender who can set the edge of a run defense as well as rush the passer?Can he become enough of a presence in the pass rush to held hold the levees until Suggs returns?

Well see.

A year ago, the Ravens wondered if Kruger even had a future in Baltimore. He had struggled to gain traction in his first two seasons after joining the team as a second-round pick in 2009. But he separated himself from the dreaded B-word (bust) in 2011 with a breakout performance that included 5.5 sacks in a specialist role.

When a starting job opened up ahead of him in March after Johnsons departure, Ravens coach John Harbaugh was as curious as anyone to know if Kruger really was ready to step up. Harbaugh said he went back and looked at the tape of every play of Krugers 2011 season.

Id be surprised if he doesnt rise to the occasion and have a heck of a year, Harbaugh said.

Asked directly if Kruger was ready to start, the coach said, He really is.

That was before Suggs went down in late April, adding to the pressure on Kruger. The Ravens need him to do more than just perform adequately as a first-year starter in 2012; they need him to make plays.

He looked solid as he ran with the No. 1 defense throughout the spring season of OTAs and minicamps, but the real test begins with training camp later this month and then the opening of the regular season in September.

Lets be clear: Im not Terrell Suggs. Were different players, Kruger said this spring. He was the best defensive player in the entire NFL last season. Im going to be the best I can be and I'll be working as hard as I can to fill the position.

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Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

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USA TODAY Sports

Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

The Ravens have their entire 2018 draft class locked up.

The team agreed to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Hurst's rookie contract - like all first-round picks - is a four-year deal with a team option of a fifth year. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the 25th overall pick is due $11.1 million. 

The 24-year old, who was a walk on at South Carolina at 21-years old after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012, finished his three-year career with 100 receptions, 1,281 yards and three touchdowns.

Standing at 6-foot-3, Hurst will be a nice addition to the TE corps with Nick Boyle and third-round draft pick Mark Andrews. 

Fellow first-round pick Lamar Jackson signed his rookie contract on June 5th.

Training camp kicks off for the Ravens July 19th. 

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

Since drafting Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have made it clear that Joe Flacco is their starter. That doesn't mean they're not experimenting with having them both on the field at the same time, however. 

During this week's minicamp, the team has been lining Jackson up at multiple positions. 

"Gosh, I sure like him out there helping us," coach John Harbaugh said of Jackson during Tuesday's minicamp, via ESPN.com.

"If you put two quarterbacks on the field at once, what options does it create for our offense? That's what we're trying to figure out."

While at Louisville, Jackson rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns in three seasons. That's more rushing yards than No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley. That unique skill set could be the creative options the Ravens are looking for. 

While at the NFL Combine, however, Jackson refused to workout at any other position than QB. 

"I have a lot of fun seeing what they come up with and what they're going to come up with next," Jackson said. "We'll see where it goes. You have to use your good players."

The Ravens are already viewing Jackson as one of those 'good players.' 

"Once he gets out of the pocket, it's like watching a young Michael Vick," LB C.J. Mosley said after minicamp practice. "It's amazing to watch. When you're defending him, you just have to act like you're tagging off -- you don't want to be on the highlight reel."

Harbaugh has alluded to the fact that the rookie will be active on game days, just exactly how they get the most out of him is what's in play.

"There's a lot of considerations that go into that," Harbaugh said of using two QBs at the once. "Everybody has an opinion. I've read a few. You want to find a way to get the most out of all your guys."

While Flacco isn't the fasted QB in the league, he has shown glimpses of running ability in the past. Figuring out how to utilize Flacco when Jackson is under center is where things will get interesting.

Interesting - as long as it works - is what Ravens fans have been searching for over the last several seasons. 

"Joe has to be able to do other things if [Jackson is] throwing the ball," Harbaugh said. "It gets the creative juices flowing for our offensive coaches, and they've worked hard on that."

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