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Bjoern Werner to Colts: How Does OLB Fit with Indianapolis?

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 25:  Bjoern Werner of the Florida State Seminoles greets NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (L) after Werner was picked #24 overall by the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 25, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images
Kyle J. RodriguezCorrespondent IJanuary 16, 2017

Let's give some credit to Ryan Grigson: The Colts GM knows what he needs and went out and filled that need at the NFL draft on Thursday night.

When the Colts were on the clock following Minnesota's selection of defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, they submitted their pick almost instantly. According to Phil B. Wilson, Grigson had no thoughts of trading down with him available, as Werner was "the guy we wanted and the guy we got."

Even after signing Erik Walden to a fairly large contract in free agency, it was well established that the Colts' outside linebacker corp was a weak one, arguably the weakest position on the team. Robert Mathis is still around, but he is aging and was not as productive in 2012 as he has been in the past. Walden is a poor starter and doesn't offer much in the pass rush. 

Considering the Colts' inability to rush the passer in 2012 (with Dwight Freeney still on the roster), fans and analysts alike knew that improving that in 2013 was a must if the Colts were going to compete for the division title with the Texans

So where does Werner fit in this defense?

Grigson apparently believes that he can play both rush (ROLB) and strong-side (SOLB) outside linebacker, but Werner should be an immediate contributor at SOLB, splitting time with Walden during his rookie year. This will allow Robert Mathis and Jerry Hughes to share time at ROLB, though I assume Mathis will get the lion's share of the snaps. 

At SOLB, Werner will be responsible for rushing the quarterback, but he will also play a key role in setting the edge in the run game. Werner isn't a perfect scheme fit for the role, as he lacks athleticism and versatility to be able to drop into coverage and run complicated stunts, but if asked to stay at the line of scrimmage, he should be able to excel. 

Werner's best trait is his lightning-quick first step, which allows him to use his strong hands to quickly disengage from the offensive tackle and get to the quarterback. When it comes to run support, Werner is strong and very disciplined. He sets the edge well and stays in his gap, never overpursuing.

Werner does need to work on his technique, which can get sloppy as he stands straight up and loses leverage at times. But Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano, who held a private workout with the outside linebacker, are confident that he will improve, and has a very high ceiling.

The German native will be most lethal in nickel and dime sets, where the Colts generally go with four-down linemen. Allowing him to use that quick burst and keeping him at the line of scrimmage will utilize his strengths and hide his weaknesses, especially in his rookie year as he adjusts to the speed of the NFL. 

Colts fans should be excited to see the high-motor player, who is excited to get on the field. I'll leave you with this gem of quote from the newest Colt, said on a conference call this evening following his selection. 

"I can't promise you I'll be the next Dwight Freeney. I promise you I'll work hard every day and just try to be the best I can be." 

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