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DE Joe Kruger: The Eighth Draft Pick

The 2014 NFL Draft started one week ago today, and over the course of three days, the Eagles selected seven talented young players to help build a championship-caliber roster. In a way, though, the Eagles will add an eighth draft pick this year with the return of defensive end Joe Kruger.

Kruger was drafted by the Eagles in the seventh round of the 2013 draft. After a successful Training Camp with the team, Kruger suffered a shoulder injury in the Eagles' final preseason game against the New York Jets. That injury would land Kruger on injured reserve, ending his rookie season before it even had a chance to take off.

Ten months later, Kruger feels fully recovered, and he's ready to prove himself on the field.

"The shoulder is feeling good," Kruger said. "I haven't had any problems with it in a while, and I'm just feeling good. That's all I'm focused on is getting on the field this year, and there's really no other option for me. I've just got to do it. I need to perform in camp and I need to get out there. I'm not the kind of guy that likes to sit back and watch. I'm used to being out there on the field and playing well.

"I feel like I had a good camp last year. I know I could have done some things better, but I'm focused and I'm definitely going to play with a chip on my shoulder."

The phrase "chip on my shoulder" will take on more than one meaning in Kruger's case. As the 6-foot-6 defender gets back onto the NovaCare Complex practice fields for conditioning and OTAs, head coach Chip Kelly and the rest of the Eagles coaching staff will surely be watching Kruger every step of the way to see how he's progressed.


One thing is for certain: the Kruger that the coaching staff sees this year is very different than the player they saw on the field last season. Kruger, not able to play or practice in 2013, packed on the pounds as he watched from the sidelines… but in a good way.

"I've gained about 20 pounds, so I'm up to 290 pounds and I'm just ready to play," Kruger explained. "It was definitely frustrating sitting back and watching and wanting to be out there, but I think it was good (to have more time to learn the defense). I was at 269 pounds playing the four technique, so I needed to put on some weight and I did that. I've learned the scheme and I've gotten to know everyone and I just feel a lot more comfortable than I did last year. It was frustrating, but at the same time it's been good, so I'm just excited to get back out there and use this new weight."

At Utah, Kruger recorded 9.0 sacks in 38 career games, often using his speed and quickness to his advantage. Despite increasing his weight, Kruger believes he can be as effective as ever at getting to the quarterback.

"I feel just as fast as I was at 269 pounds, and I'm excited to get out there and practice and just see what I can do," Kruger said. "I feel like pass-rushing is one of my strengths. I think I'm pretty fast for how big I am, and I feel like I can definitely help out this year in the pass rush.

"I think (the added weight) will make me better. I've been running and we've been conditioning and I feel really good. I think it will help me be more powerful and it will be a real positive for me."

The Eagles boast one of the youngest defensive lines in the NFL, with no member being older than 25 years old. Kruger is the youngest member of the group, and, in fact, is younger than all but two of the Eagles' 2014 draft picks (Jaylen Watkins and Jordan Matthews).

Kruger, who turns 22 in the beginning of June, believes that having such a young group around him has been a huge benefit in the early stages of his career, and it will continue to help him as he learns the ropes in the NFL.

"It's a great group of guys," Kruger explained. "We all work really hard. We all have a great connection with each other and a great friendship. I'm glad I came here, because these guys really treat you well and they brought me in as one of their brothers. I'm thankful for that and I'm thankful that I'm on this team."

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