The Indianapolis Colts will have an interesting situation at the outside linebacker position, and how they use Erik Walden and Bjoern Werner will be one of the most frequent questions asked during training camp.
The Colts' front office brought in Walden along with a number of free agents in March, with many of them likely to be named starters once the regular season begins. In Walden's case, he certainly expects to be the starter after signing a four-year deal worth $16 million, with $8 million guaranteed.
Meanwhile, the team also decided to bring in Bjoern Werner, the pass-rushing defensive end at Florida State, with the 24th overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft back in March. Although Werner has yet to sign at the time of writing this, the Indianapolis Star's Mike Chappell recently reported that Werner is finally close to signing a deal so that he will be able to attend training camp, which begins on July 28.
Heading into training camp, it currently feels like Walden will be the starter opposite of Robert Mathis, while Werner will come in on likely pass situations, particularly on third down.
As much as everyone likes to hate on Walden, he's really not that bad of a player. He was in an awkward situation with the Green Bay Packers, playing on both sides of the ball when Clay Matthews and/or Nick Perry were out due to injury. While he may not be the best pass rusher, he does a solid job at setting the edge along with covering tight ends and running backs out of the backfield.
Now, Walden will have an opportunity to possibly start and hold the edge on the opposite side of the football, which is something that he can do. He had different responsibilities while with Dom Capers in the Packers' defensive scheme, and now Chuck Pagano has been speaking very highly of the new addition.
On the other hand, Werner will be looking to prove himself in camp to show that he can be the starter Week 1.
Werner had a terrific final year with the Seminoles in 2012. He was the ACC Defensive Player of the year with 42 tackles, 18 for loss, eight passes defended, and 13 sacks. He showed that he can quickly get off of the snap while also showing the strength and athleticism to either go through the offensive lineman or around him.
While there's a lot to like about Werner, he's still a prospect that's developing. He didn't start playing football until high school, but he's shown that he's developed a very high football IQ and he possesses great natural instinct. The switch from a defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker isn't a huge move, but it will take some time to adjust.
Right now, it appears that it's Walden's job to lose. Werner will certainly get on the field in 2013, but he will need to prove to his coaches that he should be getting more snaps than the guy they brought in for quite a bit of money.
Training camp is less than a week away, and we will get to see both of these guys in action. One thing is certain, and that is that this could be one of the biggest camp battles this year.