CLEVELAND — Joe Schobert began last season in the defensive rotation and started three of the first eight games, but he fell out of favor and lost playing time as his rookie year progressed. He played all 16 games, with four starts, and finished with 16 tackles, a half-sack and a pass defensed.
New linebackers coach Blake Williams believes he knows the reason for the struggles.
“This is just in my opinion, he’s not a 3-4 outside linebacker,” Williams said Thursday. “That’s kind of what he played in college, that’s kind of what he played last year, but that’s not what his body is.”
At 6-foot-1, 245 pounds, Schobert is undersized for an outside linebacker in a 3-4. He was asked to play the same position as guys 3 inches and 30 pounds heavier and looked overmatched.
The Browns have switched to a 4-3 system this year.
“The former big-time high school basketball player, the guy that played receiver and came into Wisconsin as a receiver, the guy that went viral last year vertical jumping and taking the ball underneath his legs while he’s in midair dunking the ball, that’s who Joe is,” Williams said. “That necessarily isn’t a 3-4 outside linebacker, it’s more probably a 4-3 linebacker. And what’s interesting about Joe that you’ve seen this year, has reduced weight a bunch but is actually a lot stronger and more powerful.
“And then his ability to do some of these things, that basketball athleticism allows him to be a good MIKE (middle linebacker) and WILL (weakside), but then, all of a sudden, some of that time being a pass rusher in a 3-4 allows him to be a SAM (strongside), down on the ball, pass rushing. So he can really be a jack of all trades on where he’s gotten himself to now.”
Schobert, a fourth-round pick, has been working primarily at middle linebacker and is pressing veteran Tank Carder for the starting job. Schobert rotated in with the first team Friday night during the Orange and Brown Scrimmage and was active.
ON THE WAY UP
Rookie safety Jabrill Peppers, the No. 25 pick, began camp with the third-team defense but saw extended playing time with the starters Friday, working in a rotation with Ibraheim Campbell and Derrick Kindred. Peppers was around the ball often and also returned punts.
“He is coming on — just more comfortable, playing more plays, understanding the defense better,” coach Hue Jackson said. “I saw him smack a couple of people today, which is good. That is who he is and that is what we think he will bring to the table.
“I thought he caught the punts really well and kickoffs. Jabrill is a good football player. He is going to contribute to this team.”
THE GOOD AND BAD
Tight end J.P. Holtz was the leading receiver, catching six passes for 41 yards for the White team. Receiver Jordan Leslie had four catches for 53 yards for White.
“J.P. came up big tonight,” quarterback Brock Osweiler said. “Jordan Leslie had a huge night.”
** The Brown team got too cute on its second series. Receiver Corey Coleman got the ball on a reverse and pulled up to throw. Receiver Kenny Britt was double-teamed, but Coleman threw deep anyway, resulting in a Trey Caldwell interception.
“At the end of the day, it was called. We didn’t execute it,” Jackson said. “I probably felt the same way you did, and let’s keep going.”
Starting linebacker Christian Kirksey went down on the first series, stayed down for a while and limped to the sideline with a left leg injury. He jogged to test it but didn’t return.
Jackson said he was fine and could’ve gone back in but Jackson held him out.
** Rookie tight end David Njoku participated after leaving practice Thursday with a sore back. He had a catch for 5 yards
** Receiver James Wright didn’t play after sustaining a bruised lung Thursday. He made a great leaping catch from DeShone Kizer and left practice shortly after.
** Also sitting out were: safety Ed Reynolds (knee), rookie defensive tackle Caleb Brantley (finger), defensive back Marcus Burley (face laceration), offensive lineman Gabe Ikard (concussion), defensive lineman Jamal Marcus (ankle) and rookie cornerback Howard Wilson, who’s on the physically unable to perform list with a knee injury.
Rookie kicker Zane Gonzalez made 39- and 22-yard field goals. Cody Parkey made a 40-yarder.
** Isaiah Crowell had a 37-yard run.
** Former Browns linebacker Willie McGinest attended as part of his duties as an NFL Network analyst.
** From the head-scratching department: A fan held up a sign that said “Bring Johnny Manziel Back.”