Living up to the loftiness of a first-round pick is extremely tough to do, and coming in for an All-Pro is even tougher.
But in 2014, Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Bjoern Werner will look to accomplish both.
A native of Berlin, Germany, Werner only played two years of high school football before choosing Florida State as his college of choice to play football. He would go on to become a unanimous All-American in 2012, along with the title of ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He was highly touted in the 2013 NFL Draft, often being mentioned in the same breath as Barkevious Mingo and Ziggy Ansah as rushing threats. Werner would fall to the Colts at 24th overall. It was intended that Werner would come in and play standing up, something he rarely did at FSU (Werner was more of a hands-in-the-dirt kind of rusher).
Now, after a season of mediocrity and injuries, the Colts are hoping they won’t regret the decision.
Bjoern Werner’s rookie campaign wasn’t one to boast. He was able to log 18 tackles and 2.5 sacks along with four defensed passes on the year after dealing with a torn plantar fascia in his right foot. He was increasing in the system, but never came back to form after the injury.
However, Werner’s been steadily improving this offseason as a player who can adjust to his new role. With a full offseason to work with the defense, he looks much more fluid in his standing position and has more comfort with his rushing motions. He’s been highly active in practices, and many eyewitnesses consider Werner one of the most improved Colts on defense.
When Werner is effective, he can light up opposing ball-carriers. He has the ability to hit hard and, with some mechanics work, could help cause more fumbles with his large frame. He naturally likes rushing on the left side of the line, but has shown ability from the right as well, making him a versatile player to plug anywhere on defense.
And now that Robert Mathis is out four games, there’s never been a better time for Bjoern Werner to step up his game.
Werner has been given an incredible opportunity to perform in wake of an Indianapolis Colts legend at linebacker, and he’ll likely not disappoint. He’ll start in Mathis’ right spot, opposite Erik Walden. With Walden’s inability to get to the quarterback, Werner may have to be the only pass rush the Colts have against the likes of Peyton Manning and Nick Foles in the first two regular season games.
With a young and impressive Jonathan Newsome breathing down his neck, Bjoern Werner will have to give first-round caliber effort in his first four games to maintain a large role on defense. He was drafted to be an outside presence, via pass rush and edge setting. While he’s gotten fairly good at edge setting, his pass rush is something to keep an eye on as Indy’s first preseason appearance against the Jets approaches this Sunday.
And who knows? The guy could give Colts fans hope at outside linebacker.