Jaguars Free Agency Review: What Should Jacksonville Expect from Joe Schobert?
The Jacksonville Jaguars will have a new man in the middle of their defense next season in fifth-year veteran Joe Schobert, one of the biggest additions the team has made to the defense in recent seasons.
Schobert, 26, agreed to a five-year, $53.75 million contract with $21.5 million in guaranteed money, marking the Jaguars' first unofficial free agency move of the 2020 offseason, a move that will create a domino effect.
"We really feel great about the things Joe has been able to do and what he adds to our team,” head coach Doug Marrone said in a statement earlier this month. “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," Marrone said about Schobert. "This gives us the ability to move Myles Jack to outside linebacker, which I feel is a more natural position for him. Myles and I spoke about the change and he’s excited.”
Originally a fourth-round selection by the Cleveland Browns in 2016, Schobert spent four seasons in Cleveland and made the Pro Bowl in 2017.
In Schobert's time in Cleveland, he recorded 408 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, six interceptions, and a staggering seven forced fumbles, along with 20 pass deflections. He is a steady playmaker and a capable prescence inside, all traits that would fit the Jaguars' needs at the second level of the defense.
In 2019, Schobert started 16 games and totaled 133 tackles, seven tackles for loss, two sacks, four interceptions, two forced fumbles, and nine pass deflections.
To get more of a gauge for the type of player Schobert is and the value he brings to the Jaguars' in 2020, we have caught up with Pete Smith of BrownsDigest to discuss what expectations should be for Schobert.
1) Not a lot of Jaguars fans know much about Joe Schobert. What are his greatest strengths in your eyes?
Smith: "Schobert's biggest strengths are his ability to contribute in coverage while being able to make plays at all areas of the field. He's someone that can make tackles on backs in the backfield, flies out to make a tackle in the flat and can impact as a blitzer. For as good as he is on the field, Schobert is arguably better off of it. He'll be great in terms of leadership, doing things the right way and representing the franchise in a way that will make them proud.
2) Schobert has some impressive numbers in terms of takeaways. Is this due to luck in your eyes, or is he genuinely gifted at finding the ball and forcing turnovers?
Smith: "The fact that the interceptions came in bunches was somewhat a matter of luck and some poor quarterback play, but it's also a product of being right in what he's doing. Schobert is a player that's able to put himself in position so when the opponent makes a mistake he can punish them. What isn't luck is how he tries to cause fumbles. That's technique and being smart, which doesn't get as much attention, but has been far more critical for the Browns in tight spots. The Denver Broncos game last year is a great example. In a spot where it felt like the Browns needed a turnover, almost on cue, a pass to a back was clogged up and he was able to come in, rip the ball out and get the offense the ball back. "
3) What was the primary reason for Cleveland opting not to re-sign Schobert this offseason? Do you agree with the move?
Smith: "The decision to let Schobert go is entirely about their approach to the linebacker position. It's just not something this front office led by Andrew Berry is going to focus on in terms of premium draft assets or salary cap space. They're treating linebacker like many teams treat running back. On paper, the philosophy makes sense, but as is the case with running back, de-emphasizing it makes a ton of sense until you don't have one."
4) Schobert is going to be relied upon a lot in terms of setting up the team's run defense and orchestrating the Jaguars' efforts against ground attacks. Is he a solid run defender, or are there warts to his game in this area?
Smith: "Schobert is a solid run defender and he does a great job setting up the defense. Occasionally, he will miss tackles he shouldn't, though that has improved dramatically... much of it was due to diving. His play for the Browns largely mirrored the performance of the defensive line last year. When Myles Garrett was suspended and Olivier Vernon was injured, the defensive line was made up largely of scraps and his play suffered. Schobert is a good player, but perhaps is subject to too much volatility. He'll play lights out one week and then is relatively invisible the next."
Smith makes a lot of good points about Schobert here that align with why the Jaguars wanted Schobert so badly in free agency. The Jaguars lost a lot of defensive leadership by trading away Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye, and the hope is Schobert can step in instantly and help fill that void.
Schobert being more than serviceable vs. the run in most cases is good news for the Jaguars' prospects considering their issues in this area last season, though it should be noted that most do consider Schobert to be better vs. the pass than the run.
With that said, Schobert is a good fit for the Jaguars' 4-3 defense and what Todd Wash does schematically. It will be up to Schobert to find consistency, however, to justify the investment Jacksonville has made.