Colts outside linebacker Bjoern Werner, their first-round selection just a year ago, hasn't exactly set the world on fire up to this point. Last season, he had 2.5 sacks in 13 games, making only one start. Yes, he was a rookie and things don't always click right away for rookies, but as we've seen, there isn't a lot of patience with first-rounders anymore. People want results right away, or they are quick to label a guy a bust.
I don't agree with that approach. I know from personal experience and observation that it usually takes a defensive line type like Werner about three years to really come into his own. Fans don't want to hear that, and it seems like some GMs don't either these days. Werner had even more pressure lumped on him going into this season as his teammate Robert Mathis was suspended and then tore his Achilles. knocking him out for the whole season. Yes, that is the same Robert Mathis who had almost 20 sacks last year.
Asking any player to try to replace Mathis' production would be pretty ridiculous, but asking a second-year guy who is still learning how to play outside linebacker? Ridiculous and friggin' impossible. Werner doesn't have any sacks in his first four games of this season, and I imagine some folks were already prematurely starting to feel disappointed with him. The good news is that Werner was able to notch two sacks against the Ravens on Sunday, including one on the first play of the Ravens' last desperation drive at the end of the game, which definitely helped his team finish off the win.
The bad news is he got them both by beating rookie free-agent left tackle James Hurst.
Now I am not all that familiar with Hurst, and I didn't really break down his film from North Carolina. I'm sure that he's a nice enough guy who has a family and lot of friends that love him. Still, it's very important to note that he is not a good football player, at least not yet. Maybe one day Hurst will at least be a competent NFL offensive linemen. All I know is that day was not Sunday.
Hurst spent so much time looking lost on the field last Sunday that I kept hoping somebody would hand the poor guy a map. It certainly didn't help that the Ravens were playing from behind for most of the game, meaning they would have to throw a lot against a blitzing Colts defense. To their credit, the Ravens did send Hurst help quite a bit, which was pretty much a tacit acknowledgement that they knew he was a liability. The problem is there just isn't a way to help a left tackle on every single play, so at some point he is going to have to earn his money and block somebody.
Or attempt to, at least.
Hurst is what we used to call "Burger King," because you could have it your way against him. Hell, another Colts outside linebacker, Johnathan Newsome, turned Hurst into a turnstile, literally. Newsome made the guy do a complete spin in place and almost had a sack of his own. Watching him try to block on film was pretty hilarious at times, but I imagine Flacco and the rest of the Ravens offense isn't laughing too much after the loss.
I don't want to take too much away from Werner's performance. Like I always say, a sack is a sack and they all count. He did make a pretty good move with his hands on the first sack, so I definitely want to give him credit for that. The second sack, however, came from a simple rip inside. That move shouldn't, and won't, get you a sack or even a pressure against most starting left tackles in the league.
So hats off to Werner for his big day. I'm sure it has at least momentarily eased some of that pressure he's been feeling to replace Mathis, but I wouldn't expect the same type of performance from him going forward. There just aren't many James Hursts in the NFL.