For the fifth time in six years, Jaguars linebacker Joe Schobert faces the uphill battle of learning a new scheme on defense. Another new playbook with different signals, calls and responsibilities, a challenge he’s used to and embracing this season with renewed excitement.
“I think as far as things have gone so far, it’s an exciting time to be on defense here,” Schobert said last week. “The new schematics are fun, especially for the linebackers to play, a lot of following the ball, getting to the ball, seems like a lot less responsibilities in certain calls and certain aspects.”
The Jaguars originally signed Schobert last offseason to a five-year, $54.75M contract with $21.5M guaranteed to play middle linebacker. He would go on to play in and start all 16 games, collecting 141 tackles (84 solos), three interceptions, 2.5 sacks and six tackles-for-loss.
Mitch just turned back to Mitchell.— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) December 27, 2020
3rd INT of the season by Joe Schobertpic.twitter.com/W6sqJCAoA5
In all, the signing has been deemed a success for now, especially after the linebacker was able to learn the new scheme and adjust to playing on the field. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, players were unable to get invaluable practice time prior to training camp and tackled for the first time during Week 1 of the regular season, an obstacle many - including Schobert - had to overcome.
“We didn’t get a lot of reps in training camp and there were no preseason games to kind of go through that,” Schobert reflected.
“So, the first couple weeks of the season, that was kind of the vibe, trying to learn it, trying to get the experience in the defense. Once things kind of settled down and you knew your role and understood it completely, it was a little bit easier to be able to go out there and be more comfortable in what you’re supposed to do and make plays”
With the ability to get organized team activities in prior to mandatory minicamp, and the normalities of an NFL offseason, Schobert says the team’s on the same page, making for a smoother transition to a new language.
“It’s just tough to learn the verbiage at first,” he said. “You’re always going to associate things you did in the past and there’s always going to be a way that you thought you liked the best. But once you get through OTA’s and mandatory mini-camp and training camp, that’s three times we’ll have installed the whole playbook and everything going forward.”
As many other players have already indicated, this year’s team feels different, the environment around the Jaguars’ organization has been altered, and a lot of it is due to the emphasis the team, and head coach Urban Meyer, has made on the health of its players.
Schobert has been in the NFL for six years now, and the conversation surrounding getting into the treatment room is different, no longer is there a stigma behind getting work done as there may have been in the past.
The phrase “you don’t make a team in the training room,” has been heard by Schobert and many players in the past. Not in Jacksonville.
“When Urban [Meyer] and the new coaching staff came in, everything’s about maximizing your value, using every single resource you have at hand available, using it as much as possible and taking advantage of the things you can take advantage of.
“Like if your calf got kicked in practice, you can go in and get some ice on it, you can get guys working soft tissue work. Don’t be worried about being in the training room because the coaches are going to look down on it. They want you to take good care of your body. They want you to be better.”
Those changes appear insignificant at first glance, but the Jaguars have been incredibly healthy throughout their OTAs thus far. There haven’t been many players off to the side that isn’t necessarily supposed to be there due to injuries suffered prior to joining the team, or last season. The changes appear to be working.
With a change in culture around the Jaguars’ organization, while Schobert is in agreeance with that notion, he did have more of a leveled thought behind how it could be perceived. Simply put, if the team is winning, it will be a positive culture change, if they aren’t winning games, it won’t.
“But you have to respect a guy who lives what he preaches, and you can tell Urban [Meyer] and the coaching staff bought in and live what they preach,” said Schobert.
“We take that to practice and the energy and the enthusiasm at practice has been one of the highest I’ve ever seen in spring. It’s been a lot of fun to just get out there and compete and follow what these coaches are laying down. Once we get to Sundays in the fall, I expect us to be in a lot of games, winning a lot of games and being successful.”
It remains to be seen how dramatic of a change Meyer and his staff will bring to Jacksonville, but newness in the air is something to take in and embrace, especially for players like Schobert who want to see consistency just as much as anyone else.
“The guys in front, the guys behind are flying to the ball making plays all over the field and it just makes for a fun environment and it’s great learning so far in the spring. Now, we just can’t wait to get pads on and start playing real football.”