Impact Players for 2014

  colts-linebacker-bjoern-werner-pressures-brandon-weeden The regular season is drawing closer and closer, and training camp is almost here.  What can we take from last year and apply to this year?  Probably not much- each team is different in its make-up, but there are some constants that don’t change.  Most likely we don’t have to worry about Andrew Luck, as he has been everything he was billed coming into the league out of Stanford.  But what about some of the others?  That is what I am looking at for players I have labeled as “Impact Players”.  Who are they, and why are they considered “Impact Players”?  This is the first of my ” Impact Players” for 2014. Bjoern Werner, last year’s first round draft pick, carries extra expectations heading into the 2014- not just by fans, but also by himself.  Werner was drafted out of Florida State where he played Defensive End, and primarily as a typical pass rusher.  So, when coach Chuck Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson announced the selection, many who follow the team were left puzzled.  For the team however, they said they got the player the wanted all along. Here is what Pagano said about drafting Werner after the draft in April 2013:  “We can do a lot of things with this guy. Having a guy like this come in and add to the mix with the other guys like (defensive end/outside linebacker Robert Mathis). Having a guy come off the edge and being productive as he was in college, he can do a lot of things for us. Obviously, we’re really excited about having Bjoern.” The Colts were transitioning to a 3-4 defense and would be utilizing Werner as an Outside Linebacker, a position that didn’t seem to be a natural fit. Furthermore, Pagano felt, “He’s an outside linebacker. First and second down, he’s an edge setter in the run game. He can certainly do that. He’s a dynamic pass rusher. We obviously knew that we needed to address that. Just so happened that we addressed it and he was the highest player on the board at the time” BjoernWerner Here is what WalterFootball.com said of him in 2013: “Overall, Werner has a nice skill set, is well-rounded and will give excellent effort. He doesn’t have elite speed or power, but he should be a starter and productive player during his NFL career. Werner looks like a solid first-round pick as a base end in a 4-3 defense.”  Strengths:

  • Power at the point of attack
  • Run defense
  • Strong; can push offensive linemen around
  • Productive pass-rusher
  • Repertoire of moves
  • Shedding blocks
  • Powerful, active hands
  • Surprisingly good instincts
  • Enough speed to turn the edge
  • Can to sink his hips/shoulder
  • Excellent motor
  • Ability to bull rush
  • Very disruptive
  • Phenomenal closing speed
  • Makes plays in and out of his gap
  • Pad level
  • Plays with good leverage
  • Upside

Weaknesses:

  • Good, but not elite speed
  • Lacks some explosion
  • Probably not athletic enough to play in space as a 3-4 outside linebacker
  • May lack the agility to rush standing up in the NFL

Okay, so Walterfootball.com likes him, but felt that he would be better  suited on a 4-3 team, and that he doesn’t have the athleticism to play a 3-4 OLB.  Werner’s performance last year was somewhat hard to judge because of the transition he was undergoing, and an injury that forced him to miss games.  Also his rookie status resulted in him being involved in a rotation because of his perceived liabilities in pass coverage and veterans already in the line-up. Here are his 2013 Stats: 13 Games, 18 tackles combined (solo & assist), 2.5 sacks robert-mathis-cf94ffe91c86bbf4 Why does this make him an “Impact Player”?  Well, the short answer is Robert Mathis‘ absence.  We all know that Mathis got popped by the NFL for four games for failing the league’s banned substance policy.  This presents the team with a huge hole to fill, and Werner in his sophomore outing should get his chance to show how much he has grown from  his 2013 rookie season.  In fact, Werner had this to say recently to Tommy Schoegler of 21Alive Sports in Fort Wayne, Indiana during the Colts Fan Fest appearance during the city’s Three Rivers Festival.  Here are his comments about the opportunity for him during Mathis’ absence: Indianapolis Colts Rookie Camp “Yes of course, it’s an opportunity for me, I’m just trying to take it. I want to prove it that I can be that guy to replace him for the first four games, and I just want to let loose and play football, last year I was a little too tight and now I just want to show that I can play football in the NFL.”   Also he commented on the difference between last year and this year, “It’s a lot, it’s really a big mental thing in the NFL you know, you have to be comfortable and uh once you become comfortable with the routine it’s a big step you feel way more comfortable and adjusted.” Werner also answered what he thought the defense needs to do to improve this season: “We have to play as a family you know, we’re doing really good but you can always improve and everybody’s on the same boat so you all have the same mindset to win the Super Bowl, we know we have to play good offense, defense and special teams to get there and trying to help the offense out and the offense trying to help the defense out, you know.” Bjoern has done a lot in the offseason to build up extra strength in order to help him against some of the bigger linemen he had difficulty against. The coaching staff challenged him to bulk up in the offseason and Werner seems to have embraced the idea. Jeff FitzGerald, Werner’s line backer coach had this to say: “He went to Germany, I think, for a week. He was not gone long. So, he made a commitment to stay put and he looks a lot better. He just moves better and he’s carrying his weight better. He’s stronger.” When you add up the facts, Bjoern has done much to improve over last year’s performance. He has indicated his willingness to be the next man up in Mathis’ absence. Furthermore, he has done the extra work the coaching staff asked of him, and also feels much more comfortable in the daily routine of professional athlete. It seems that things are aligning for Werner to have a potential breakout season.  He was able to make steady improvement late in the season last year. All of this seems to be pointing towards a potential impact season with the team this year! Look for more of my “Impact Players” coming soon..

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