A move which was not only done to address the middle of the team’s defense, but to upgrade the entire linebacker unit — allowing fifth-year linebacker Myles Jack to move to his “natural” position at weak-side linebacker.
“We really feel great about the things Joe has been able to do and what he adds to our team,” Marrone said in a statement released by the team last week. “He brings an ability to tackle and diagnose plays. He’s a true middle linebacker and has played it at a high level. He’s really going to help us, not only at the MIKE linebacker position, but he also helps us overall across our whole linebacking corps.”
For the purposes of this film review, we took a look at four games from 2019, two chosen at random, one featuring Schobert’s best game according to Pro Football Focus, and one deemed his worst game, according to the same source.
Games Reviewed: Week 8 (vs. New England), Week 9 (vs. Denver) Week 11 (vs. Pittsburgh), and Week 16 (vs. Baltimore),
Participation Statistics (plays in which Schobert was direction involved in. i.e, a tackle, interception, coverage target): Week 8: 15/69 (21.7%) Week 9: 7/48 (14.58%) Week 11: 18/72 (25%), Week 16: 13/73 (17.8%)
In games against the Steelers and Broncos, Schobert allowed only two receptions in one-on-one coverage for 29 yards. Against the Patriots and Ravens, Schobert allowed five receptions for 39 yards and a touchdown, all according to clear one-on-one matchups.
Schobert’s proficiency against the pass has been well documented, but what stands out is his ability to mirror running backs out of the backfield, along with covering tight ends and — sometimes — wide receivers down the seam.
This is reflected in his statistics as well. According to Pro Football Focus, Schobert ninth in coverage snaps per reception with 10.9. For reference, retired Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly is slotted in a two-way tie for seventh with 11.1 coverage snaps per reception.
Schobert posses the read and react skills to see through the traffic, tracking the running back into the flats and makes a clean open-field tackle. One of the deficiencies of the Jaguars’ over the years; often losing the running back.
In the next clip, Scobert sits in the a zone coverage across the middle of the field and tracks the quarterback’s eyes to cut off the receiver at the top of the route, picking the ball off, nearly scoring a touchdown.
What stands out is how intuitive it looked for Schobert. He doesn’t take very many false steps and the moment he sees the quarterback’s eyes move, he flashes into the appropriate area.
Schobert was drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft as a 3-4 outside linebacker out of Wisconsin. He is a natural pass rusher, and because of that, he will bring another element to the Jaguars’ defense — the ability to rush the passer at any point, outside or in.
While Schobert shows a clear proficiency in the passing game, where he may lack somewhat is in the run-game. His tackling is not much of an issue, however, his ability to shed blocks at the point of attack could use some work.
The Jaguars’ new middle linebacker is a tackling machine. Since 2017 — his first year playing middle linebacker —, Schobert is ranked fourth in total tackles with 380. While tackles aren’t everything, his proficiency to attack the ball carrier is still good to point out, especially with a linebacker who specializes against the pass.
Here, Schobert correctly reads the run and attacks his gap between the center and the guard, however, at the point of attack, he subsequently gets hooked, causing him to miss the ball carrier.
This mishap is a little more egregious, and illustrates some part of Schobert’s game where he gets in trouble. When attacking his gap, Schobert gets blocked out of the play by the tight end advancing to the second level. If there was one part of his game where he is lacking, it would be against the run, and specifically inside the tackles with blockers in front of him.
While Schobert may have some issues against the run, he still presents an upgrade for the Jaguars defense in it’s current form. His ability to read and react — such as in the clip above —, are phenomenal. The rangy linebacker is able to effortlessly flow to the ball carrier, making the open field tackle following a cutback.
Last season, the Jaguars struggled mightily in this area, often giving up a cutback lane due to over pursuing the running back, or rusher. What Schobert should bring to the defense is more proficiency in this area, allowing the team to not have to depend on the final line — safeties —, if its defense.
Over the past three seasons, Schobert has accounted for seven forced fumbles and six interceptions. Since 2017, the Jaguars’ linebacking corp has accounted for four forced fumbles and five interceptions. While turnovers are not the end-all-be-all of a linebacker group, having the extra element within the team’s defense will pay dividends down the line.
Schobert is highly capable of attacking a ball carrier in the open field and has had the propensity to cause a fumble over the past few years.
In the above clip, Schobert trails the wide receiver, subsequently taking advantage of a throw behind the receiver. A linebacker that can take advantage of the other team’s mistakes along with creating his own (such as is the case in the clip in the first section), is a utility many teams yearn to posses.
What we learned:
The Jaguars certainly upgraded at the linebacker position, not only to allow Jack to move to a more “natural” position as an outside linebacker, but also in the middle. Schobert brings a field general to the team’s defense. Rarely caught out of position, and always setting up his defense in the best position to succeed.
Schobert will allow the Jaguars to be much more proficient in the passing game on defense, while giving them an added benefit of turnovers, and a potential to provide more pass rush, inside or outside.
Although the fifth-year veteran will not be the most productive player against the run, he rarely not necessarily be a net-negative considering the team’s past and potential to upgrade the interior of the team’s defensive line.
While the Jaguars paid mightily for Schobert, their payoff should be seen immediately on the gridiron.