Earlier this offseason, the Indianapolis Colts waived outside linebacker Bjoern Werner, officially parting ways with the former first round bust.
In 2013, the Colts drafted Werner in the first round to address their pass rush, but that would require Werner moving from a 4-3 defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker. The Colts were convinced that he could make that transition, but it turned out to be a tougher change than expected.
Now, Werner is with the Jaguars, and he's excited about getting back in a familiar role in a familiar system, as he implied that he wasn't a good fit with the Colts.
"That’s what I had done my whole career, basically," Werner said on moving back to defensive end with the Jaguars, according to Jaguars.com. "Now, I can focus on pass rush. That’s what you get judged in the league – production. That was a big part of why I was released with the Colts.
Werner seems to think that he didn't get the chance to focus on rushing the passer with the Colts because of the other responsibilities they wanted to teach him about outside linebacker.
"[As a linebacker] In a 3-4 system, you have to focus more on setting the edge, dropping, pass combos," Werner explained. "You lose sight of the pass rush, but because it’s the NFL they want to see numbers. I’m the type of guy who needs to train and work on fundamentals in the pass-rush part of the game to produce on the field. The last three practices [with the Jaguars] remind me of my time at Florida State where it’s all about, “Put your hand down and work on your craft as a pass rusher.” I’m excited. It’s a lot of fun. Even though it’s just a couple of days I feel so refreshed and excited to work on that."
Werner's excuse is a familiar one, as it's one commonly used around the NFL. Players who don't work with one team think that moving to another system will help them out, and sometimes they're right. With Werner, it's very possible that getting back in a role as a defensive end will lead to better success, though it's far from certain. And the bottom line is that he didn't work out with the Colts in their system despite being given the chance to, so it's really hard to blame the Colts for that one (the decision to draft him is another matter, however).
At the same time, it does raise an interesting point. The Colts have really struggled to develop pass rushers in the new regime, instead relying on veterans like Robert Mathis or players at positions where pass rush isn't their main priority. It is fair to wonder, then, whether there's some legitimate truth to Werner's excuse. Perhaps the Colts have spent so much time trying to develop pass rushers into linebackers that they haven't always allowed them to spend the time necessary developing as a pass rusher. I guarantee you that the Colts would say they gave Werner plenty of chances to develop his pass rush skills, and this does sound like excuse-making by Werner in trying to build excitement after being given a new chance. But with all of that said, hopefully new defensive coordinator Ted Monachino's commitment to pressure and pass rush allows younger players to really develop those skills and turn into threats rushing the quarterback, something Bjoern Werner unfortunately never was for them.