Tracking Bjoern Werner: A Disappointing Start


With the 24th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts selected Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner. Brought in to help shore up the pass rush, Werner recorded 23.5 sacks while in college.

In his second year in a Colts uniform, Werner hasn’t developed into the sort of player the Colts need him to be. In his rookie year, Werner recorded 2.5 sacks, 18 tackles, and three passes defended.

We knew that Werner would be starting in place of Robert Mathis for four games while Mathis served his suspension. Then he tore his Achilles which will force Werner to start all season at outside linebacker.

In his four starts, Werner has been a huge disappointment. He has recorded eight tackles, five quarterback hurries, and just one QB hit. The standout number: zero sacks. Even when facing the patchwork offensive lines of the Eagles and Jaguars, Werner couldn’t find the opposing quarterbacks.

As a team, the Colts have recorded just eight sacks through four games. At this point in 2013, the team had 13. Mathis had 7.5 of those sacks last year. He also had 19 tackles and a forced fumble through the first four games.

After reviewing film, its becoming clear that Werner doesn’t know how to rush the quarterback. While he looked very good in camp, his play in practice isn’t translating to games.

Colts at Broncos

A few things stand out in the first game of the season. One is that Peyton Manning gets the ball out incredibly fast. Any Colts fan should know this already, but he makes impossible for a slow developing rush to get to him. Its why he is usually one of the least sacked QBs in the league every year.

Another is that the Broncos offensive line is very good (giving up sacks on 2.9-percent of plays, 4th in the league). The Colts move Werner to each end of the line and he can’t beat Ryan Clady or Chris Clark off the snap.

Werner has a tendency to not attack his blocker. He will engage and ends up shoving or hand fighting with the man he’s trying to beat.

Eagles at Colts

Against the Eagles, Werner had a bad habit of being just a half second late to the quarterback. He also is unlucky and will beat his man when the play is a wide receiver screen or swing pass.

It becomes clear in Week Two that Werner doesn’t really possess any of the typical pass rush moves Colts fans are accustomed to. He isn’t fast enough to beat blockers to the outside and looks lost whenever he is used on a delay blitz. Werner got to Nick Foles a few times, but couldn’t land the sack.

The Eagles offensive line was a mess and the Colts couldn’t record a single sack. For the entire game, the Colts were close to a big defensive play, but just missed it.

Colts at Jaguars

This should have been the coming out party for Werner, but it was another game where he was close but simply couldn’t land the hit. Against Chad Henne in the first half, Werner provides a bit of pressure on a few plays that forces a short dump off pass or an incomplete.

In the second half against rookie Blake Bortles, Werner opens up the half with a near strip sack that forces a quick, incomplete throw. On the sixth play of the same drive, Werner beats a double team and is held. That penalty kills a decent looking drive for the Jags.

Werner had a free shot at Bortles on the Jags next drive but is faked by a double move. On play action, Werner is unblocked and close to hitting the quarterback. Bortles shows off his athleticism and fakes then cuts the other way, scrambling he makes a throw for a 26-yard gain. If Werner was a bit faster, he would have hit Bortles before he turned after the fake (not even that much faster either).

Werner’s best play of the game comes late in the third but is taken away by a bad call by the officials. The Jags had the ball at Jacksonville four-yard line, Werner lined up against the right tackle. He bull rushes up field, then cuts in for the stripe-sack of Bortles. The ball is loose two seconds into the play. Vontae Davis makes illegal contact down field at roughly 3.5 seconds into the play, when the ball is rolling out of bounds.

There shouldn’t have been illegal contact, since the ball was out by the time contact was made downfield.

Following that play, we see more bull rushes, outside moves, and failed shoulder dips from Werner.

Titans at Colts

By the fourth game, it is clear that Werner is pressing hard. So badly that he makes a desperate swipe for the ball late in the game and hits the quarterback in the head, drawing a penalty.

Werner has trouble disengaging from blockers. He desperately needs a spin move as he is adept and pushing his man up field, and could use that move to be in line for a run at the QB. He is trying to be a speed rusher without the speed necessary to do so.

When he uses a shoulder dip, he ends up on the ground far more often than not. His bull rush isn’t quick enough and he doesn’t know how to swipe at a blockers hands to create separation.

At this point, Werner simply isn’t effective at the position. A lack of the necessary speed, no pass rushing moves, and no sense of urgency all add up to another draft bust.