Bjoern Werner Certainly Looks Like a Bust


The Indianapolis Colts have a burning need for a dominant edge rusher who can create havoc and consistently get to opposing quarterbacks. For over a decade, it hasn’t been a pressing need with players like Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis on the roster.

Bjoern Werner was supposed to be the player who stepped up and became the next great pass rusher for the Colts. But he’s been a disappointment since he was drafted in 2013.

This past season, we finally learned what life is like without either of those elite players. The Colts had to put together a pass rush by committee and use of heavy blitz packages. While that was effective against inferior QBs, it largely failed when facing a more talented quarterback.

Werner was a standout player in training camp. He was routinely beating his man and generating pressure off either side of the line (i.e. against Gosder Cherilus AND Anthony Castonzo).

His hard work hasn’t paid off and now we wonder about the future of the former first rounder. Recently, Stephen Holder of the IndyStar questioned whether we should be calling Werner a bust yet.

In the past two seasons, Werner has racked up just 6.5 sacks and one forced fumble in 28 games. For comparison sake, Jonathan Newsome had 6.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in his rookie year, all while coming off the bench for most of the season.

Among the Colts long list of needs on defense, pass rusher is certainly one of the more important. The easiest way to stop the pass is to prevent the ball from getting out of the pocket.

We took a look at Werner early in the season. Through four games, he didn’t have a single sack and then promptly went on a run over the next few games.

Film study shows some fundamental problems with Werner’s game. For one, he doesn’t have very many pass rush moves. He has a quick move in or out and can bull rush, but that’s really about it. He doesn’t utilize the spin move that Mathis and Dwight Freeney made popular. He also lacks basic moves like the swim move or shoulder dip.

Additionally, Werner doesn’t seem to know how to react once his first move has been neutralized. He plays hard, but the production isn’t there.

It doesn’t help that Werner was a healthy inactive heading into the AFC Championship game. Chuck Pagano wasn’t exactly forthcoming when it came to an answer regarding the benching. It sounded like he was taken out because he simply wasn’t playing well (which was very true).

Compounding the problem is Newsome continually outperforming Werner on the field. Newsome even had the game changing play against the Broncos in the playoffs.

Werner is fighting an uphill battle. For one, the German native is still learning to play a notoriously difficult position. Secondly, he’s hasn’t been playing football for nearly as long as most current NFL players. Werner played for just a couple seasons in high school before suiting up for three years in college at Florida State.

Werner was also a primarily down lineman in college, and didn’t play as much outside linebacker. Some scouting reports even said that he shouldn’t be converted to OLB because he wasn’t athletic enough to play the position.

Werner does seem to excel when it comes to run defense. Pro Football Focus gave him a +4.4 in this category, his lone positive grade for the season. He would make for a much better strong side linebacker who could possibly set the edge.

He isn’t in danger of being cut. Werner’s due $2.5 million next season but the Colts would only save $1.5 by letting him go.

He’ll be challenged to get better in the offseason. With Mathis coming back (hopefully) and the emergence of Newsome, Werner’s position on the roster is certainly in doubt.