LB Pete Werner was selected in the second round of the 2021 draft, and he had a solid, but nothing special rookie year as he mostly played sparingly. Expectations were somewhat high for the second-year linebacker, and with the departure of Kwon Alexander, he was going to be starting alongside Demario Davis. His snap count rose massively from 35.27% in 2021 to 52.7% and would have been higher before injuries cost him 5 games with an ankle injury. After returning from his ankle injury that honestly could have landed him on IR, his snap count dropped. Even so, his 2022 season was one of the few bright spots for the New Orleans Saints. He was third on the team in tackles with 80, and also added 3 TFLs and 2 forced fumbles. We are going to breakdown his season in two parts, before and after he returned from the ankle injury.
Pete shot out of the gate against Atlanta dominating the Falcons with 13 tackles, a forced fumble, and a TFL. Oh, happy memories from the Atlanta game when we all swore that we were winning the Super Bowl. In Week 3 against Carolina, Pete logged his highest snap count at 97%. Despite the loss, he had another solid game with 10 tackles in an ugly game, he truly was one of the bright spots (running theme there). Week 7, I would argue was his best game since Week 1, despite the team not showing up around him. He put up 7 tackles but 2 of them were TFLs and he had a nice pass breakup. Unfortunately, we would lose Pete in the next game against Baltimore, when he exited in the second quarter on a cart.
Pete missed the next 5 games after leaving the Baltimore game and when he returned you could tell he was still a bit more hesitant to explode to the ball. The Saints in turn, perhaps trying to protect the future leader of the defense, limited his snaps much more than early in the season. His production dipped as he tried to work his way back from a very serious ankle injury. In a weird sort of good karma, this allowed Kaden Ellis to get more snaps which could be good for the Saints in the long run. Pete was still a solid contributor when returning especially against Atlanta (again) as he had 4 tackles and 1 TFL in limited snaps. In the next two games, he had just 44% and 51% of the snaps as the Saints chose to limit his chance at re-injury. Hopefully with a fully healthy season, he can return to his early season form and continue to show he is part of the future of the Saint's defense.
Pete had an explosion and was surely on the way to his first Pro Bowl season before the ankle injury. Hopefully in a full off-season, he can get the rest and recovery he truly needs to come back and play at that level again. In 2023, Pete Werner is expected to be a big-time player for the Dennis Allen-led Saints.
Prediction for 2023:
94 tackles, 6 TFLs, and 2 forced fumbles.
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