Indianapolis Colts: Andy Studebaker

INDIANAPOLIS -- All eyes shifted to Indianapolis Colts second-year linebacker Bjoern Werner immediately after the NFL announced the four-game suspension of linebacker Robert Mathis for violating the league's drug policy last month.

Werner is the leading candidate to start at outside linebacker while Mathis is serving his suspension. Quite simply, there's no reason why Werner should not be starting when the Colts take on the Denver Broncos in Week 1.

This is no offense to Cam Johnson, Daniel Adongo, Andy Studebaker and Jonathan Newsome.

Position: Outside linebacker

Primary candidate: Werner

Pro: Werner has the most experience of the group competing for the starting spot. He had 18 tackles and 2.5 sacks as a rookie. Werner also spent the majority of the offseason workouts working with the first unit.

Con: Just like the rest of the defense, Werner needs to work on being consistent. “I think he knows what's at stake,” Colts GM Ryan Grigson said. “I think you see it just in the way he's playing right now, just the way he's getting off the ball, the way his body looks, what he did in this offseason. He was a constant that was here every second. He was like a wall flower. He was here every time you turned around.”
INDIANAPOLIS -- As someone pointed out to me, there were only 98 days until the start of the NFL season as of Sunday.

Ninety-eight is also the number of Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis. Mathis, as you know, is suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season for failing the league's drug policy.

There's still plenty of time between now and Sept. 7 to determine who will join D'Qwell Jackson, Erik Walden and Jerrell Freeman in the starting lineup at Mathis' linebacker spot.

Second-year linebacker Bjoern Werner is getting the first crack at starting in those four games.

"All the young pass-rushers have to step up," he said. "We don't know who the guy is, everybody is seeing opportunity and everybody is just trying to replace him for the first four games."

Werner, who missed three games last season with a torn plantar fascia in his right foot, had 18 tackles and 2.5 sacks during his rookie season. Like Mathis did in his first year under coach Chuck Pagano's 3-4 defensive scheme, Werner had to make the adjustment from being a defensive end in college to being an outside linebacker. He has spent the offseason getting stronger.

Werner will be pushed by Daniel Adongo, Cam Johnson, Andy Studebaker and Jonathan Newsome for playing time at outside linebacker with Mathis out.

"I prepare the same way before the whole situation with Robert came out, and I'll keep preparing the same way," Werner said. "I feel great, I've had a great offseason and just seize the moment. Hopefully I'm the guy, but that's coach's situation."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Hopefully the initial shock of outside linebacker Robert Mathis' four-game suspension has worn off until Week 1 of the regular season when the Indianapolis Colts miss him against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

There is no replacing Mathis’ impact on defense. Who starts in his absence might not be determined until training camp, but it’s never too early for us to take a look at the options at outside linebacker.

Bjoern Werner: The 2013 first-round pick had 15 tackles and 2.5 sacks as a rookie. Colts GM Ryan Grigson wanted Werner to spend time in the offseason getting stronger. "I know (defensive coordinator Greg) Manusky’s all over him about getting some guns and looking the part," Grigson said at the end of last season.

Cam Johnson: Johnson was a hot name after the Colts acquired him from San Francisco last September. The majority of his playing time ended up being on special teams.

Andy Studebaker: He totaled six tackles in 11 games after being signed prior to the Oct. 14, 2013, game against the San Diego Chargers.

Jonathan Newsome: Former Colts GM Bill Polian compared Newsome to Mathis moments after the Colts selected him No. 166 overall in the draft last weekend. The Colts would be in good hands if Newsome immediately started playing like Mathis. That likely won’t happen, because like Mathis, Newsome is transitioning from playing defensive end in college to outside linebacker in coach Chuck Pagano’s 3-4 defensive scheme.