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14 for '14 Number 8: OLB Bjoern Werner

In the 14 days leading up to the Indianapolis Colts reporting for training camp on July 23, we will count down the 14 most important players to the Colts success in 2014. Today, we look at number 8, outside linebacker Bjoern Werner.

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Bjoern Werner was included on this list last year and would have certainly made the list this year as well, though he is ranked much higher than he would have been a few months ago after the suspension of Robert Mathis.  Without a doubt the loss of Mathis will have a huge impact on the Colts defense, as Mathis accounted for 46.43% of the team's sacks in 2013 and figured to be overwhelmingly the best pass rusher on the team yet again.  Now, they'll have to play the first four games without him and they'll need help for him even after that.  Bjoern Werner is the guy expected to step up, contribute, and help out with the pass rush.

As the team's first round pick last year, fans expected a lot out of Werner and yet he managed only 2.5 sacks all season.  He struggled with injuries early in the year and then improved as the year went on, so there is hope this year for Werner to really continue to improve.  Honestly, there's no other choice.  Werner must improve and he must step up, period.  He is crucial to the team's success in 2014.  Not only will Werner play a massive role in the first four weeks of the season when the Colts take on the Broncos, Eagles, Jaguars, and Titans, but even after Robert Mathis comes back he can't be expected to rack up 19.5 sacks again and account for nearly half of the team's sacks again, so he'll need help in rushing the passer.  Bjoern Werner is the one the Colts will need to count on to do that and will need to be a significant force and disruptive presence.  The Colts don't need him to be the next Robert Mathis, but they need Werner to continue his progression as a first round pick and they need him to help much more than he did last season.  I'm not saying he's a bust, but he needs to improve a lot this year.

Bjoern Werner is perhaps the most notable player on this list who is on it based much more on need than on production.  Werner's 2013 season was a clear disappointment and he notched only 2.5 sacks.  He's most definitely not ranked number 8 on this list based on his production - he's ranked on this list based on what the Colts need him to do in 2014.  We looked a few weeks ago about how the pressure is on Werner in 2014, and that's the main reason for his inclusion on this list.  We're not ranking the best 14 players on the roster but rather the 14 most important to the success of the team in 2014, and when looking at it from that angle there's no doubt that Werner is incredibly important to the Colts this season.  He'll be starting the first four weeks of the season and will need to be the primary pass rusher for the team and then even after Robert Mathis comes back after week four, Werner will be expected to have a significant impact in the pass rush to help the Colts.  His production level so far in the NFL hasn't been anything special at all and has been a disappointment, but there's no doubt that Bjoern Werner is very important to the Colts's success in 2014 - enough so to be included on this list at number 8.

Check out our list counting down the 14 most important players to the Colts' success in 2014:

14. Pat McAfee, punter

13. Anthony Castonzo, left tackle

12. Greg Toler, cornerback

11. Reggie Wayne, wide receiver

10. Cory Redding, defensive lineman

9. Dwayne Allen, tight end

8.  Bjoern Werner, outside linebacker