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'Sky's the limit' for emerging young LB Joe Schobert

If Joe Schobert is on the cusp of a breakout season, it won't be too much of a surprise to head coach Hue Jackson.

"He's done an outstanding job," he said after the linebacker's starting debut against the Steelers this past weekend. "I saw it in training camp. I told you guys that before."

Indeed, Schobert, the former fourth-round pick and Wisconsin standout, is one of several members of the Browns' 2016 NFL Draft class contributing in a major way. And under new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, he's blossomed in the middle of Cleveland's defense.

"It's a very fun job to have in this scheme," Schobert said Friday. "You're mostly the overlap player. You're kind of like a safety, just fitting where the ball is going. Find ball, see ball, get ball as Gregg Williams says."

That approach has served Schobert well as he led Cleveland with nine tackles and played all 60 defensive snaps in a game that saw the Browns hold the Steelers to 290 total yards and shut down All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell.

Williams, who joined the team's coaching staff in January, said the former Big Ten Linebacker of the Year intrigued him during the pre-draft process two springs ago.

"One of the things that I liked a lot about him coming out, and I was attracted to him in the draft when he was coming out, was he was an all-state basketball player," Williams said. "Those movements are rare when you talk about a football player with toughness and still being able to play tough."

To extract that athleticism, Williams said he challenged Schobert — who is something of a quarterback of the defense at middle linebacker — to lose weight in the offseason (roughly 15 pounds, by Schobert's estimation).

"Not only did I ask him, I told him, you better lose weight, otherwise you will have periods of practice with me helping you lose weight," Williams said, smiling. "Then you all of the sudden see those movement skills and then getting him to believe in himself that anywhere we go and what we do, the middle linebacker is the person in charge on game day."

Schobert has embraced that role.

"He looks like a big-time linebacker," Jackson said. "​I think the sky's the limit for him if he can keep growing and keep getting better within this system."

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