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Pagano on Bjoern Werner: ‘We’ve Just Got to Keep Him Healthy’

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According to Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, his 3rd year pass rusher in Bjoern Werner could be poised for a great season, if he can just stay healthy. The former 2013 first round pick has at times shown flashes of becoming an impact pass rusher, but has largely been a disappointment during his tenure with the Colts.

Still, while Werner has suffered through some injuries, as well as inconsistency, he still has a firm believer in his head coach. His sideline general in Pagano took the time to discuss his injury plagued pass rusher after Wednesday’s OTA practice:

"“I think the biggest thing for him is just staying healthy,” said Pagano. “You know, because we’ve seen him do it. You know, so I’ve got video evidence, we’ve got it on tape of him doing it and playing at a high level and being productive. So now it’s just a matter of him, you know staying healthy and if he can stay healthy, he’ll have a great year.”"

The “health card” may be overly optimistic on Pagano’s end, perhaps even wishful thinking. However, to be fair, Werner did have 4 sacks in the first 7 weeks of last year’s regular season before a shoulder injury apparently derailed his promising season, failing to record a sack the rest of the way:

"“It’s that simple,” Werner said via Stephen Holder of the Indy Star. “Since I’ve entered the league, I haven’t been healthy one time.”“I don’t want to sound cocky, but personally, I feel like when I’m out there and healthy, I can be a baller,” Werner added. “I can do it all. You always have to get that mojo going of course. But I’m telling you, I’m confident I can be an NFL player and a starter in this league.”"

Sep 28, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Bjoern Werner (92) against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

It appears that the Colts will have to hope that Werner’s health holds throughout the course of next year’s regular season. Unlike last season; however, the outside linebacker position is much more crowded as veteran Trent Cole was recently signed and Robert Mathis is set to return, with Jonathan Newsome also pushing for an expanded role. Snaps may come at more of a premium, and if Werner can’t produce, he likely won’t play.

One member of the media at yesterday’s press conference raised an interesting point, suggesting that Werner could be better utilized as a strongside outside linebacker and run stuffer (i.e. Erik Walden‘s role), rather than primarily as a pass rusher.

Despite being drafted for his pass rushing prowess, Werner has actually fared better against the run ironically. It’s worth noting that according to ProFootballFocus (subscription), Werner received a +4.4 advanced grade overall against the run last season, compared to a -6.6 grade in pass rushing. Pagano responded by saying that he believes Werner can play both roles effectively:

"“He’s athletic enough to play either, so he’s a bonus because he can play either outside position for us because he can play in space, you know as well as, set the edge, rush the passer, and play coverage,” replied Pagano. “So, he’s not limited to one side or the other.”"

Whatever the case may be, the Colts still clearly have high hopes for Werner. Right now, their stance as well as his, is that he simply has to stay healthy for an entire season and greatness will soon follow.

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