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Arthur Jones, Paul Kruger Carrying Pass Rush

Posted Dec 12, 2012

Over the past five games, Paul Kruger and Art Jones have combined for 11 sacks.

With two minutes remaining in Sunday’s game, the Redskins began their final march.

Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was still in the game. Outside linebacker Paul Kruger and defensive end Art Jones were lined up next to each other on the left side of the Ravens’ line.

Both burst off the snap and got single blocking. And as has been the case recently, they both won.

Kruger beat the right tackle with speed to the outside. Jones powered through a guard with an inside rip. At the same time, the two players leapt at RGIII’s feet. They settled for a split sack.

While the Ravens defense has been banged up in recent weeks, Kruger and Jones have been carrying the Ravens’ pass rush.

Over the past five games, the Ravens have 16 sacks. Of those, 11 belong to Kruger (6.5) and Jones (4.5).

They each had 1.5 sacks against RGIII, who is known for his elusiveness in the pocket and was not sacked at all by the New York Giants the week before.

“I thought we rushed him well,” Kruger said afterwards. “We hit him a bunch of times, we got a couple sacks on him.

“It’s tough to cut on that field. It feels like you’re running around on sand. I think if we were on a better surface we would have hit him even more.”

Kruger has notched a sack in each of the past five games, which ties a franchise record for most consecutive games with a sack. It was previously done twice by former linebacker Adalius Thomas.

Kruger’s 6.5 sacks in the past five games ranks third in the NFL behind Denver’s Von Miller (seven) and San Francisco’s Aldon Smith (12).

The 2009 second-round pick now has a team-high eight sacks on the season, which is an improvement on his career-high 5.5 from last year and a drastic change from his single sack in 2010

“He’s really improved,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said last week. “He’s played a lot this year. Sometimes playing the game is what helps a guy to improve, and he’s done that.”

Jones has similarly taken off. He didn’t have a sack in his first 24 games before notching 4.5 in his last three. Jones had two in San Diego to break his drought, then one against Pittsburgh and 1.5 in Washington.

Like Kruger, Jones is another player benefitting from seeing a lot more playing time. With the departure of Cory Redding this past offseason, then knee and thigh injuries to defensive end Pernell McPhee, Jones has handled most of the defensive end duties.

McPhee was the team’s primary pass rusher at defensive end last year with six sacks. But he has just a ½ sack so far this season in nine games and six starts.

Jones has four quarterback pressures in just 17 pass-rushing snaps in Washington, meaning he affected RGIII nearly a quarter of the time. That was the best rate on the team behind Kruger, who had nine pressures in 31 pass rushes.

In addition to improving his technique, according to Harbaugh, Jones has done well in being relentless with his pass rush. A strong second effort led to his full sack against RGIII Sunday after Jones was originally well blocked.

Jones was asked about his sack streak last week. The 2011 fifth-round pick tried to brush it off.

“Don’t jinx me, I don’t want to talk about it,” he said with a laugh. “I’m just working hard every day, trying to get better. Not that I wasn’t giving effort before, it’s just that when you’ve got a guy like Terrell Suggs sitting next to you, it starts to rub off on you.”

While Kruger and Jones have stepped up with pass rushers McPhee, Suggs, Dannell Ellerbe each missing some time over the past few weeks, Baltimore’s pressure should improve once it has all of its weapons back in rotation.

Suggs (biceps) has a chance to return the field this Sunday, McPhee is regaining his stride after two games back and Ellerbe (ankle) should have a better chance after sitting out the past two contests.

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