Pressure is on Colts' Werner to pressure Manning

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The Colts start the season without their best pass rusher. Last year's NFL sack champion Robert Mathis is suspended four games for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing drugs. That puts pressure on Bjoern Werner to put pressure on Peyton Manning Sunday when the Colts open the season in Denver (8:30 p.m. WTHR).

Mathis collected 19 1/2 last season. No other Colt had more than 5 1/2 sacks. Werner, a rookie last season, made just two-and-a-half sacks. Werner will start at rush linebacker while Mathis serves the suspension. The Colts desperately need Werner to increase his pressure on opposing quarterbacks in year two.

"If you see a guy like Robert having 19 1/2 sacks, it just motivates me every day to be like him,” said Werner. "We call him the 'Sack Master.' I try to be that guy."

In last year's 39-33 Colts win over the Broncos, Mathis' strip sack of Manning scored a safety and turned the game in the Colts favor. Now Werner wants to put a Manning sack on his resume.

"If you have the chance to sack him, that's like a memory forever,” said Werner. "You can tell your kids back in the day you sacked a Hall of Famer. I think every pass rusher, that's their goal, to sack Peyton Manning when they play him."

More sacks in 2014 are one area for growth for Werner in his second season. Another is his beard, which he started working on in January at the suggestion of his wife, Denise.

"I was like, 'Why?'," said Werner. "She was like, 'I don't know. I like it. I think you look manly with a beard.' I was like, 'I'm not manly enough playing in the NFL?' She was like, 'No! I want you to have a long beard.' Since then I let it grow."

The Colts hope the bearded German will lead a manly pass rush, especially while Mathis is suspended. The Colts need pressure on the quarterback as they open the season against high powered passing offenses, first the Broncos, then the Eagles.

The Colts drafted Werner in the first round (24th overall) a year ago, but he started just one game and totaled 15 tackles and three passes defensed to go with those 2 1/2 sacks. Growing up in Berlin, Germany, the 24-year-old did not play organized football until high school.

The Colts have won six straight games over the Broncos, including the postseason.

WTHR gets you ready for kickoff Sunday with a Colts Inside the Huddle special at 6:30 p.m. Channel 13 sports director Dave Calabro and columnist Bob Kravitz report live from Sports Authority Field at Mile High.