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Utah football: Former star Joe Kruger released by Philadelphia Eagles

NFL free agent Joe Kruger of Utah.
NFL free agent Joe Kruger of Utah.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

He beefed up this off-season, hoping this would be the year that he finally cashed in on the promise he showed with the Utah Utes. But defensive lineman Joe Kruger spent all of last year on the Philadelphia Eagles injured reserve list with a bum shoulder.

On Sat. Aug. 23, the Eagles cut Kruger. Needing to trim the roster to 75 players--and eventually, 53 by the season opener--the Eagles opted to let the former seventh-round pick go.

in many ways, since Kruger's finally healthy, this is technically his first year in the NFL--provided some other NFL team takes a chance on him. Many believed Kruger would fit in well with the Eagles athletic and young defensive line, a 3-4 scheme that often rotates six or seven players to the delight of head coach Chip Kelly.

Since the Eagles had seven defensive linemen on their roster, it seemed a no-brainer that Kruger would stick around in Philadelphia. However, Kruger didn't play at all in the Eagles last pre-season game on Saturday and he didn't play much in the Eagles previous pre-season game--despite showing well in Philadelphia's pre-season opener against Chicago.

Part of that may have to do with the 4-3 alignment Kruger played in at Utah as a defensive end. He came out of college early after earning Pac-12 honorable mention accolades during the Utes' run to the Sun Bowl--and he was still learning how to play in this defensive alignment that was new to him.

Instead of using his hands to maneuver around opponents, Kruger had to learn how to two-gap and utilize his hands more than he ever did at Utah.

In the grand scheme of things, Kruger will probably find a team that suits him better. Many NFL teams are in dire need of a 21-year-old with size (he's 6-6 and 291) and a rare skill set like Kruger's.

Even Kelly believes that Kruger, now part of the NFL free agents group along with the 13 other players who were cut by the Eagles on Saturday, will find a home somewhere.

"We just didn't feel that it was beneficial to the players to have them practice [four more days], then cut them in the afternoon on Tuesday," Kelly said in an interview. "See if they can catch on with someone else in this last week … that's just the approach we took with this group."