There's no pressure on Bjoern Werner to be the Indianapolis Colts' next Dwight Freeney unless he reads the comments from his new bosses.
Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said finding Werner still available for the Colts to pick at No.24 in the first round led to “high-fives and the things you want to be feeling when you make that pick.”
Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Werner is “definitely” the new complement to outside linebacker Robert Mathis.
High-fives and a Mathis running mate? Sounds like some Freeney expectations are upon Werner.
“You turn on the film and he jumps off the screen at you,” Grigson said. “This guy is productive, he plays hard, eight batted passes this year, plus 13 sacks, a ton of (tackles for loss), is a team player, too, and fits coach's mold as a human being and a football player.”
That's some heavy-duty first-round gushing.
The 6-foot-3, 266-pound Werner originally came to the United States from Germany as a foreign exchange student. He started his career at a junior college, then developed at Florida State into a sack artist (23.5 career sacks in three seasons) and a player who finds his hands in the passing lane batting down footballs. He was named the ACC defensive player of the year last season.
He had a poor 40-yard dash time (4.83 seconds) at the NFL Combine and he's still a little raw, but that doesn't seem to bother the Colts.
“You put on the film and he's the first one off the ball every down,” Grigson said. “He's got great get-off, he can bend and his closing speed is excellent on film. So he plays the game at a higher rate of speed. He just doesn't run 40 yards (well) and I don't think he's going to have to rush the passer in that type of measurement.”
Werner said the Colts had shown interest in him, so he thought it might be possible they would call his name at No.24. Grigson said the team received some calls about possibly trading the pick, but decided not to as it became evident Werner would likely be available.
“Oh, man, I was happy,” Werner said in a conference call with Indianapolis reporters. “It's one of the best programs out there right now, one of the hottest. What the coaching staff dealt with last year, Coach Pagano, when he worked me out a few weeks ago, I was wishing they would draft me, and then that happened. I can't wait to meet my coaches and all my teammates.”
Werner is the only pick of the first two rounds of the NFL Draft for the Colts, who traded their second-round pick to Miami last season in exchange for cornerback Vontae Davis.
Pagano said he believes that Werner's potential to improve as a player in the NFL is substantial. He will move to outside linebacker from the defensive end position.
“His ceiling is enormous,” Pagano said. “So you look at coming over and going to junior college and going to Florida State, every year he got better, his numbers got better every year. Again, he'd be the first one to tell you he's still learning. So we feel like he's got a very high ceiling and that, obviously, his future is very bright.”
Pagano and Grigson both talked of how they expect Werner to be able to come off the edge with speed and aggression to rush the quarterback.
“On third down, there's a multitude of things we can do with this guy,” Pagano said. “The simplest is line him up opposite of Robert and tell him, 'Sic 'em. Go get the quarterback.' "
That's what Freeney used to do, of course. Werner deftly fielded the biggest question: Is he the next Freeney?
“I can't promise you that,” Werner said, “but I can promise you that I'm going to work hard and come every day and try and be the best player that I can be.”