Joe Schobert is focused on "getting the Jaguars on top and back to the playoffs."
The newly acquired linebacker will take over for Myles Jack at MIKE, allowing Jack to play in his more natural role at WILL. Schobert is excited about the opportunity to play for the Jaguars and specifically with Myles Jack.
"I came in at the same time as Myles Jack, and I remember in college watching UCLA stuff when he was playing running back and linebacker, running all over the field and making plays all the time," said Schobert. "I think the 2017 (AFC) championship game against the Patriots, if you watched that game, you just see the talent he possesses, how fluid he is as an athlete, and how sudden he can be and explosive. My goal for me coming in here is to just take things off of the plate, being able to set the defenses, make the calls, make the checks and their adjustments and let Myles just go be an athlete out there and wreck the game which he has the ability to when he doesn't have to be caught up in trying to get other people lined up and be responsible for all that communication."
Schobert's penchant for knowing how to get other players lined up in the right spot and taking on the most challenging role in the Jaguars' defense should help Myles Jack and the rest of the Jaguars' defenders play more freely.
Schobert signed a five-year contract with the Jaguars this spring, worth a total of $53.75 million. With $21 million in guaranteed money, the Jaguars are locked in with Schobert as their starting middle linebacker for at least the next two-three years. Schobert is ready to take on the challenge of turning the Jaguars into a perennial contender.
"I come from a franchise where I didn't play in the playoffs," said Schobert. "I was 1-31 my first two seasons; that was my record. I just want to prove that I can be a part of a winning franchise, a winning organization. In 2017, the Jaguars went to the AFC Championship game, but I want to be able to change the culture into a traditional winning culture to be a team that can go to the playoffs year after year and become one of the more successful franchises in the AFC, competing for titles every year."
While Joe's team won only a single game during his first two years in the league, he was hardly to blame. During his four year stint with the Browns, Schobert, who is now 26-years-old, racked up 408 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 20 passes defended, 8.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles, six interceptions, and three fumble recoveries. Schobert excels in the mental aspect of the game and is one of the best coverage linebackers in the NFL today.
The Jaguars' offseason plan of adding more beef to the defensive line should help Schobert, and the rest of the defense, get back to playing a winning brand of football.
"I always love when we have the big boys up front, who are doing all the dirty work for the linebackers so we can run around untouched. It's definitely an appreciation of mine. Those guys don't get a lot of hype, especially the good ones who can take on double teams and hold their own and the linebackers can sprint downhill fast and make plays on the ball. Having those guys is crucial to any defense. I always love to have those kind of guys in front of me."
With newly acquired "big boys up front" like Al Woods, DaVon Hamilton, and Rodney Gunter, Schobert, Jack, and the rest of the Jaguars' linebackers should have more freedom to fly around the field.
But hitting the ground running will be a challenge for the Jaguars' new MIKE linebacker. He's a student of the game and a hard worker, but having a virtual offseason program means Schobert and the rest of the Jaguars' defense won't be afforded time on the field until the local governments of the NFL permit teams to return to their facilities. That means going through installs virtually and not being able to take what they learn to the field.
"I think every team is doing it a little differently, but for us, the coaches pre-record meetings and PowerPoints with the film and the cut-ups in our XOS systems, so we go in and watch that in the morning or whatever time before we have scheduled for our position coach meeting. For us, it's 1 p.m. eastern, the linebackers come in, and you have an hour over Zoom, and we'll go through the installation pretty quickly, and then we start watching film. They'll have us, the MIKE linebackers, make the call, like the post calls and give some of the safety communication, make some of the checks. So you're kind of playing through the game a little bit over the film and then you just talk about certain coaching points every play. If there's something big in the installation that's important for our position, you go over that. And then it's just watching a bunch of film and making the calls and stuff like that."
Schobert has been trying to go through the sets that offenses could be running by himself at the park, but no amount of imagination or creativity will make up for the lost time on the practice field.
"I go to the park down the road and do some of the drills and all that and don't really feel too self-conscious. Just going through my stuff. There's not a lot of people out all the time. The stuff I would want to do would be to go through practice, where I would be sitting there, seeing a pulling guard, seeing a fullback, seeing the backfield motion and being able to react to it. You can try to do that in your head, but it's not truly a reaction if you're seeing that stuff. The most I can do is watch film. That's what I miss the most about OTAs, but I'm doing my linebacker drills and my running and stuff. I can go out and do that any time. If people want to join me, as long as they're six feet away, I'm cool with that."
Schobert is in the midst of a tough situation — joining a new team is never easy, much less when a global pandemic derails the offseason program. But Schobert is taking it in stride and doing his best to lead by example with his new team.
"It's something you get a little bit of a feel for, but the thing you can do right way is lead by example. I'm going to go in and do things the way I've always done them. Getting in the weight room, working hard, going out on the field, asking questions, doing my best to hustle every play, run to the ball. Just do stuff to set an example physically with my actions. As you learn the personalities of people, as you learn your position group, as you learn the whole field and whole team and you start stepping in and figuring out where you fit in vocally. I'm sure there are vocal leaders who are there already, and you don't want to come in and just step on somebody's toes and try to be loud and talk over them and stuff like that. Just go in and figure that stuff out, but you can always lead by example."
Schobert appears to have the attitude, work ethic, and, most importantly, the ability on the field, to come in and lead the Jaguars' defense back to its formerly dominant ways. How soon will that happen? Only time will tell.
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