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OTAs '21: Schobert adjusting to new scheme – again

Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Joe Schobert (47) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)
Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Joe Schobert (47) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

JACKSONVILLE – Whatever the scheme, Joe Schobert will be ready.

That's true if the Jaguars play a 3-4 defense moving forward …

Or a 4-3 …

Or a hybrid.

However the Jaguars' 2021 defense looks, the veteran linebacker has been through enough offseasons like this to handle the challenge. And he's enthusiastic about the challenge, too.

"It's an exciting time to be on defense here," Schobert said Tuesday following Day 8 of 2021 Organized Team Activities presented by Baptist Health.

Schobert, who started at middle linebacker for the Jaguars last season and who figures to play one of two inside linebacker positions in the team's base defense next season, continued, "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.

"Then 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."

Before the fun begins, Schobert has work to do – work he has done most offseasons during an NFL career that began when he was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft from the University of Wisconsin.

That work is learning the defense the Jaguars will run under new defensive coordinator Joe Cullen, a hybrid scheme with elements of a 3-4 and a 4-3. It will be the fifth time in six NFL seasons Schobert has learned a new defensive scheme.

A middle linebacker is the quarterback of the defense, so the position's ability to communicate correct calls – in a way the entire defensive can understand – is critical. This has been Schobert's biggest focus throughout OTAs.

"Once you get to a certain point, all NFL defenses are the same, you just have to learn the verbiage and the language of the defense to be able to communicate effectively on the field," he said.

Experience has helped Schobert in the process. Repetition has, too.

"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 OTAs and mandatory minicamp and training camp, that's three times we'll have installed the whole playbook and everything going forward.

"So, you'll get enough repetitions and enough learning classroom time in it that it starts to become second nature once you get towards the end of preseason going into the season."

Schobert, who led the Jaguars with 141 tackles last season after signing as an unrestricted free agent from the Browns in March 2020, drew praise from Head Coach Urban Meyer this week.

"He's one of the strongest guys on the team, pound for pound," Meyer said. "He had a great offseason with our strength staff and he's all in. So, we're anxious to see him have a good year."

Schobert on Tuesday credited new Jaguars strength and conditioning coach Anthony Schlegel for his offseason progress. After spending last offseason training in his in-law's basement due to COVID-19, Schobert took advantage of spending an entire offseason in the Jaguars weight room.

"I was lifting weights a little bit," Schobert said with a smirk. "The energy is infectious in the weight room. Once you get in, it's pretty hard not to work hard. I think it's just been a successful offseason for pretty much anyone that's been in there." 

The Jaguars have had near perfect attendance for all voluntary OTAs this offseason. Schobert knows the effort everyone is putting in now will be an advantage come the regular season.

"For sure, especially for a first-year defense," Schobert said. "Now, if we're talking next year and we have the same defense, I might want to be sipping a lemonade somewhere with sand, working out on my own.

"But this year, with the new defensive scheme, the new coaches, getting everybody out on the field, being able to experience these plays against the offense is pretty key."

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