Second year outside linebacker Bjoern Werner has been impressing during the first week of Colts training camp. So much so that the team's quarterback, Andrew Luck, called Werner the "best German defensive end in the NFL." Obviously, Luck was having a bit of fun with his teammate (who's technically an outside linebacker but who plays much more like a defensive end), but Luck's praise of Werner wasn't a joke. After he said that, Luck continued:
"He's savvy. He's got a great athletic sense. You see him dropping back into coverage and he covers a lot of ground. He's a big body and he has great ball instincts. I can't speak to his pass rush, I'm not a tackle, but his athleticism. He's the type of teammate you want. He's a great dude, he works hard, everybody loves him and he's always there for you. So he's a fun, fun guy to play with and really looking forward to getting to watch him out there on the field this year."
Andrew Luck isn't the only one to notice Werner's improvement. Head coach Chuck Pagano's comments were short and sweet, but they showed that the coach is happy as well:
"He looks excellent. You can see the dividends are paying off, the time he put in. He looks really good."
A few days ago, Pagano had more to say on Werner:
"He made a huge, huge jump. He might have took a week off, maybe two max after the season, and he was here the entire offseason long before April 21st. He's at a point now where, again knock on wood, if he stays healthy and everything goes according to Hoyle, the kid has put the time in, he's really worked. From a terminology standpoint, scheme standpoint, he's not thinking right now. He's able to play extremely fast. He knows the defense pretty much inside and out and he's very comfortable. You know he's got ability. So the things that you're seeing, and we're seeing the same things, but again it's all a byproduct of the time that he put in in the offseason, the time that he put in in the OTAs and the minicamp. He went back and watched a little bit of soccer obviously, but he's in a great place right now."
Also on Friday, fellow outside linebacker Robert Mathis weighed in on Werner, also offering high praise:
"He's going to shine. He's doing good, he's getting at the ball, knows his assignments and playing some good football right now... [He has improved] Leaps and bounds. He knows what he's doing. He can play fast and there is more reaction than thinking. That's what defense is. Defense is just reaction, reacting to what the offense gives you, and he can do that. Give the plays, he knows where he's going so he can just go."
Werner's rookie campaign a year ago can easily be called a disappointment, and while it was way too early to begin the "bust" talk, it was clear that Werner would need to be very much improved from his 2.5 sack season a year ago. The former first round draft pick was thrust even more into the spotlight when Mathis was suspended for four games this year, meaning Werner will function as the team's primary pass rusher and even when Mathis returns, Werner will need to continue to produce. Because of all this, I named him the eighth most important player to the Colts this year.
Therefore, Werner's impressive start to camp is even better news. He has caught the eye of everyone watching, and I know I certainly have been impressed with him and it looks like he's doing much better as a pass rusher especially, both getting to the quarterback and batting passes down. Some even have suggested that Werner might be the week one MVP of camp, and I wouldn't argue with anyone who wanted to give him that distinction.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Meanwhile, Bjoern Werner continues to impress. Strong case as first week MVP. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ColtsCamp?src=hash">#ColtsCamp</a></p>— George Bremer (@gmbremer) <a href="https://twitter.com/gmbremer/statuses/493787748134694913">July 28, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Andrew Luck might have been joking around when calling Werner the "best German defensive end in the NFL," but the praise offered by many people about the progress of Werner so far in camp is anything but a joke, and it's great news for the Colts moving forward.