Colts' rookie Werner struggles at OLB in NFL debut
There is no way of sugarcoating it, when playing linebacker Werner was a liability for the Colts' run defense Sunday night against the Giants. Are the Colts better off leaving their first round pick at defensive end?
The Indianapolis Colts pass rush ranked last among AFC playoff teams a season ago with just 32 sacks. So, to the surprise of no one, Indianapolis invested heavily on front seven defenders on draft day, including using the No. 24 overall pick on Florida State's Bjoern Werner.
Werner was voted the ACC's Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 after leading the conference with 13 sacks. He accomplished this playing with his hand in the dirt as a 4-3 defensive end, however, and the Colts envision him as a rush linebacker in their predominately 3-4 scheme.
Werner, held out of the Colts' preseason opener due to a knee problem, started at outside linebacker Sunday night against the New York Giants and played deep into the third quarter. An inability to hold up against the run, however, quickly forced the Colts to move their first round pick back to his more customary defensive end role throughout this contest.
There is no way of sugarcoating it, when playing linebacker Werner was a liability for the Colts' run defense. New York's tight ends were frequently able to control him, giving their running backs easy lanes to exploit.
Giants' second-year tight end Adrien Robinson easily latched onto Werner to give running back Andre Brown eight yards on the Giants' initial scoring drive, for example. Werner appeared surprised by Robinson's block and a coach was caught by Fox's cameras barking instructions to the rookie on the sideline on the next snap. He did not return to the action for several plays.
The majority of the snaps Werner saw throughout the rest of the first half came as a defensive end, where, not surprisingly, he looked much more comfortable, holding up much better against the run and occasionally forcing Manning and backup David Carr to re-set their feet due to strong outside pass rushes.
He was back at outside linebacker on one of the signature plays of this game, a 4th and 1 from the Colts' 13-yard line.
Werner showed better awareness as he walked to the line and set in his two-point stance, recognizing Robinson across from him. The Giants' tight end still got the better of the rookie, however, latching on and turning the Colts' defender for another eight yard gain to give the New York first and goal.
On a positive note, while Werner was unable to record a sack, he pushed the corner, showing above average speed and good, active hands. Furthermore, his instincts and effort were strengths at Florida State, which bodes well for his long-term success... regardless of what position the Colts play him.
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