As one of the first picks of the Hue Jackson era, the Cleveland Browns selected Joe Schobert. A bit undersized for his defensive position, Schobert garnered relatively little college hype as a linebacker. In terms of Division I offers, he had a grand total of zero. He walked on to Wisconsin with little expectations. Going into the 2016 NFL Draft, many scouts saw Schobert as a third to fourth rounder, but nothing much more. Analysts have underrated Schobert throughout his entire football career, and it is reaching criminal levels. Schobert is an absolutely crucial part of this Browns defense, and yet, no one seems to realize it.
Joe Schobert Is Criminally Underrated
Let’s get the raw numbers out of the way here. Very quietly, Schobert is leading the Browns in tackles this season. With 71 total tackles, he’s nearly on pace to meet Christian Kirksey‘s team-leading total from last year. Additionally, he has collected his first interception and forced fumbles this season. Schobert had something of a breakout game in London against the Minnesota Vikings. Against Case Keenum and a talented Minnesota offense, Schobert was able to grab 12 tackles, an interception, and force a fumble.
Schobert has stepped in quite nicely as a middle linebacker. Especially for a system like Gregg Williams‘ famous 4-2-5 set, Schobert does not have a lot of plays to rack up these numbers. However, he is still getting a solid amount of tackles in his time on the field. Schobert isn’t just a stat stuffer, though. His increased play time came about because he had a role to fill.
Making the Most of an Opportunity
Coming into the season, Schobert was a backup linebacker for Tank Carder. Carder signed from the practice squad in 2012 and has been a solid backup/fringe starter since then. However, during the preseason game against the New York Giants, Carder went down and stayed down. After further tests were done, Browns doctors revealed that Carder had suffered a torn ACL. He would be out for the season. In his absence, Schobert would step into a starting role.
Since that game, Schobert has beautifully blossomed into a solid middle linebacker. Does he still have some work to do? Of course. Almost no player is perfect, especially defensively. However, Schobert just never stops. Regardless of how long he’s out there, Schobert flies all over the field. Whether dropping back into coverage or going after the quarterback, it never seems like Schobert is tired. High-motor guys can sometimes be at a premium in the NFL. For Schobert, it’s his greatest asset, and people might finally be starting to notice.
Contributor to a Solid Unit
Some might say that the Browns linebacker unit has disappointed this season. While that might be partially true, it’s impossible to deny how much of an impact Schobert has made. Last year, Demario Davis held down the fort with Kirksey, and Jamie Collins eventually came in. After Davis left for the Jets, some thought that the Browns might struggle when Williams decided to go with a 4-3 set. Then, Schobert stepped in.
Now, the Browns know that they can run a 4-3 with at least relative confidence. Williams’ main set still remains at a 4-2-5, but some 4-3 is definitely sprinkled in there. It seems that Williams might be getting more comfortable with Schobert as a middle linebacker, as he has seen more playing time in recent weeks. If his play time continues to increase, Schobert won’t be underrated for much longer. Simply put, he will not be denied any longer. The Scho must go on, and more and more people are coming to watch each week.
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