At 6-foot-3, 275 pounds, Karl Klug is not your prototypical defensive tackle. While his lack of size at the position may have scared off some teams in last year’s draft, the Titans were thrilled he was still available when they made their selection in the fifth round.
Little did they know Klug would produce at such a high level early on in his NFL career.
He played in all 16 games (one start) and led the team with seven sacks, 32 tackles, 10 QB pressures, two tackles for loss, four passes defensed and two forced fumbles. One of Klug’s best games came against New Orleans when he sacked Saints QB Drew Brees twice at LP Field.
Klug was the second of three defensive tackles taken by the Titans in 2011 (Jurrell Casey and Zach Clayton were the others) and part of an overall draft class that made huge contributions and exceeded most everyone’s expectations last season.
Titans head coach Mike Munchak calls Klug a “natural” pass rusher that will play a big role on Tennessee’s defense line in 2012.
“When you turn the tape on, he’s a guy that can beat somebody 1-on-1. A lot of d-linemen just can’t do that consistently like he can,” Munchak said. “He’s great with his hands, has great body control…that’s what we saw on the draft tape and that’s what we’re seeing now.”
Klug compensates for his lack of size with a combination of quickness and wrestling maneuvers he learned while competing in high school.
“I think that’s helped me out a lot,” Klug said. “Even though that was in high school, I still think that’s helped me up to this point as far as being aggressive with my hands, understanding leverage and playing underneath the guy. In wrestling, you are constantly in an athletic stance. You have bent knees. That’s how you want to play football — you don’t want to stand straight-legged.”
At times Klug catches larger offensive linemen off-guard.
“I’m assuming they’re probably licking their chops when they see my skinny (butt),” Klug said.
But Klug’s production in college — 9.5 sacks and 26 tackles for loss during his final two seasons at Iowa — didn’t get past Titans scouts and key decision makers.
“Maybe some teams have size parameters, and so they put those guys lower on their draft board,” Titans GM Ruston Webster said. “I think everybody saw that he was a good football player. He went to the East-West (game), he did well. His tape was good. He stood out on a very good college defensive line and made a lot of plays for them. It’s just when do you take that guy that’s a little bit undersized, and how do you play him?”
Munchak credits Webster and former Titans GM Mike Reinfeldt for finding players like Klug that fit the Titans’ system. With a little more upper body strength, Munchak believes Klug can become an excellent player in this league.
“It’s up to us to keep developing him and getting him to play more,” Munchak said. “He played a lot inside. We limited him a little more last year to passing downs. He could probably work on his upper-body this year to gain some weight to help him dramatically. But he’s a great kid, a great guy to have on your team. He led our team in sacks last year and he can up that number every year. He’s a special guy that really has a chance to make a difference in this league.”
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