Who is the best player to wear No. 53 for the Cleveland Browns?
The countdown to the 2020 NFL season is upon us. With 53 days remaining until the Browns season opener, we continue the countdown by celebrating the best Cleveland Browns player to ever wear number 53: Joe Schobert.
Joe Schobert was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the fourth round with the 99th overall pick of the 2016 NFL draft out of the University of Wisconsin. While at Wisconsin, Schobert went from a walk-on with no scholarship offers coming out of high school to the Jack Lambert Trophy award winner, which is given to the nation’s top linebacker by the Touchdown Club of Columbus. As a senior, Schobert was able to rack up nine and a half sacks, five forced fumbles, and 19.5 tackles for loss while playing outside linebacker.
Schobert was brought into Cleveland to be a depth piece at outside linebacker and play special teams as a rookie. With Paul Kruger, Barkevious Mingo, Cam Johnson, and Nate Orchard returning, plus with the addition of 31st overall pick from 2016, Emmanuel Ogbah, the Browns were set at the outside linebacker position.
Apparently, Schobert did not get the memo, and his play during training camp allowed the Browns to move on and release Kruger and trade Mingo to the Patriots. Schobert spent 2016 as the second-string right outside linebacker and being a standout on special teams. Halfway through the 2016 season, the Browns made a trade for Jaime Collins and the Browns were able to allow Ogbah to be a full-time defensive end.
Following the 2016 season, the Browns moved on from defensive coordinator Ray Horton. The controversial, yet entertaining, Gregg Williams was named the new defensive coordinator, and with him came the 4-3 defense. The switch in defensive fronts was a blessing for Schobert’s career. Williams wanted Schobert as his middle linebacker, which was a gamble considering that it was a completely new position for the second-year player. The gamble paid off, Schobert played 100% of the defensive snaps and finished tied for most tackles in the NFL with 144. Schobert was the team’s lone representative in the Pro Bowl in 2017.
In 2018, with one year of starting experience, Schobert had evolved into becoming the quarterback of the defense. After suffering a hamstring injury, Schobert was forced to miss three games and it became obvious how much the defense missed his on-field leadership. Getting properly lined up became a more of a rarity and less of given prerequisite in Schobert’s absence. When Schobert made his return, the defense played leaps and bounds better and the Browns defense was able to finish 2018 on an uptick.
Schobert, in a contract year, balled out in 2019. He played over 99% of the team’s defensive snaps and finished the season with 133 total tackles which were the 10th most in the NFL. Schobert also added four interceptions which were the second-most by any linebacker in the league.
The 2019 season ended up being Schobert’s final season as a member of the Browns. With the Browns having several young players that they would need to lockup long term, including Myles Garrett, Schobert became one of the casualties. The Jacksonville Jaguars offered Schobert a five-year deal worth over $50 million dollars. With linebacker becoming a position that is viewed as one of the more replaceable in the league, it was a tremendous deal for Schobert, and he was right to take it.
Joe Schobert is the best player to wear number 53 for the Cleveland Browns.