The Cleveland Browns really seem to love Joe Schobert, a young former fourth-round draft pick at the inside linebacker position. He played every snap for the team last season, recording nearly 150 tackles, and was named to the Pro Bowl as an alternate. They are optimistic about his future moving forward after seizing a starting job.
So why did they go out and sign Mychal Kendricks after he was released by the Philadelphia Eagles? The Browns already have their other starters at linebacker in Jamie Collins—whom they gave a long-term extension after trading for him during the 2016 season—and Christian Kirksey.
This is the question that the Browns have presented themselves, or at least so it seems from my outsider’s perspective. What is their intention with these for linebackers? Will all of them be used? Or was the purpose simply to shore up depth? Which of them will be short-changed?
Perhaps most importantly, is Gregg Williams’ scheme versatile enough to allow all of them to play extensively? Collins, for example, is somebody who might be able to play on the edge at times. Schobert, however, is a pure middle linebacker.
And they do love what he has done. Williams gushed about his intelligence recently, speaking of him in the same breath in that regard to some of the stellar linebackers that he had the privilege of coaching over the years, such as London Fletcher, Jonathan Vilma, and James Laurinaitis.
“He’s got a chance to probably be the most intelligent player and most intelligent Mike we’ve ever coached in this system — his capacity for understanding and thinking quickly and knowing what the offense is doing”, Williams told reporters, according to the team’s website.
“What you don’t get to see is how much better he makes people around him. If you were ever to have time to sit down with him and now ask him what he knows about offense, it’s not that he understands what we’re doing on defense”, he went on, “he has to understand what the opponent is doing and listen to what the opponent is saying. He becomes a sign-stealer, a voice-stealer”.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, or at least their fans, are rightfully jealous of the seeming stockpile of talent that the Browns have acquired at the inside linebacker position. Many fans wanted their team to go after Kendricks, for example. But instead he goes to a team without even a clear starting job open.
Has Schobert shone enough last year and over the course of this summer to keep his position in the starting lineup? Will he had to concede snaps in order to accommodate the inclusion of new talent after playing every snap a season ago?