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Kruger is leading candidate to replace Jarret Johnson

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(Credits: Larry French/Getty Images)

Paul Kruger is the frontrunner to replace Jarret Johnson as the Baltimore Ravens’ starting strong-side linebacker, according to an article by Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun.

Johnson, 30, had manned the position for the past five seasons and was one of the Ravens’ most durable players, having started a franchise-record 80 consecutive games and playing in 129 consecutive games overall. As an unrestricted free agent this offseason, he signed a four-year deal with the San Diego Chargers and he reportedly said he didn’t receive an offer close to that from the Ravens.

His exit opens the door for Kruger, 26, the team’s second-round draft pick in 2009 out the University of Utah. He struggled during his first two seasons, playing at several different positions before showing vast improvement in 2011. Kruger, who often replaced Johnson on third-down and passing situations, complied 5.5 sacks to finish third on the team behind Terrell Suggs and rookie Pernell McPhee.

The Ravens also have 2010 second-round draft pick Sergio Kindle, but he’s struggled to get back on the field and has only played in two games in two years after suffering a skull fracture before training camp in his rookie year.

At this point, it appears the job is Kruger’s to lose.