Share this article

print logo

Meet Aaron Schobel. Just in case you didn't know who he was -- he's the guy who just crushed your quarterback Defensive end has blue chip on shoulder

Whatever you do, don't call Aaron Schobel a high-effort guy.

Does he go all out? You bet. Is he relentless? Absolutely. Does he get some sacks because he doesn't give up on a play? No doubt.

Should that be his trademark?

"Nonsense, nonsense," the Buffalo Bills defensive end said Wednesday.

The high-effort label is a nice compliment, but it also suggests that a player is not quite elite, not a true blue-chip athlete.

Schobel thinks that's a misnomer as it relates to him, and he's going about proving it on the field.

With three games to go in the NFL season, Schobel is tied with San Diego's Shawne Merriman for the NFL lead in sacks at 12 1/2 . Merriman is acknowledged as one of the big stars in the league. Schobel, in his sixth season, remains unheralded and underrated.

This is the second straight season in which he has hit the 12-sack mark. It's his third double-digit sack season in four years. He now has 59 sacks in six seasons.

Nobody averages 10 sacks a year without having some special athletic gifts.

The low-key Texas native got a little bit of recognition this week when he was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his three-sack performance against the New York Jets on Sunday.

The accolade prompted the Bills to bring Schobel in front of the television cameras for a rare group interview Wednesday. Schobel, who likes to stay out of the media limelight, muttered, "I don't like this [stuff]," as he approached the microphones.

Yet the reporters found a subject Schobel could warm up to when he was prodded on the issue of his athleticism. He thinks he does not get enough credit for it.

"I think I'm quicker than most -- believe it or not I am," he said. "I think I'm able to bend, being as athletic as I am."

Then he spit out the numbers from his predraft workout at the 2001 NFL Combine like it was yesterday.

"Let me tell you all some stats," Schobel said. "Thirty-eight-inch vertical [jump], 4.03 shuttle, the third fastest at the combine. So I've got some burst. Y'all didn't know that either, but it's there."

Baltimore sack star Terrell Suggs, the 10th overall pick in the 2003 draft, had a time of 4.14 in the short shuttle, a 20-yard drill that measures quickness and change of direction ability.

The 38-inch vertical jump isn't too shabby, either. Bills end Chris Kelsay did 36 1/2 inches and Ryan Denney did 33. Houston's Mario Williams, the top pick in this year's draft, did 40 1/2 inches. Dallas' budding star, DeMarcus Ware, did 38 1/2 .

Bills defensive line coach Bill Kollar says Schobel's short-area quickness is star quality.

"He's got a good get-off, but he's got a really good burst and acceleration once he beats a guy," Kollar said. "You'll see the quickness and the close that he's got. Some guys might have good speed, but can they close to that ball? Can they close to the quarterback when they become free? That's one thing he really has. He has the real short, quick burst off of blocks."

Schobel fully expected a good season this year because the new Bills' defensive scheme, which requires the defensive linemen to attack across the line of scrimmage, suits his game.

"I've gotten more chances to rush, where in the past on third and long I dropped [into coverage]."

Schobel says he also at times is allowed to line up wider on obvious passing downs -- well beyond the offensive tackle's outside shoulder. In past years, he lined up directly across the outside shoulder pads of the tackle.

"They let me get in the nine technique," he said of the outside position. "If it's run I'll react to it, but I'm playing the pass first."

In the past the Bills created pressure on the quarterback with a zone-blitzing scheme in which one lineman -- such as Schobel -- dropped into coverage and a linebacker or safety filled his spot in the rush.

This year the Bills are going with a four-man rush much of the time. Schobel has proved he can be a consistent force given lots of opportunities.

He has sacks in four straight games and in nine of 13 games this year. Of the 13 sacks he has been in on, 10 have come in a four-man rush. The Bills rank sixth in sacks.

"We don't blitz much," Kollar said.

"I think as ends we have 23 1/2 between us four," Schobel said. "We're getting there. It's the kind of defense where we have more people covering, and you get more chances."

Schobel also thinks the new scheme has brought better effort out of him.

"I went back and I watched some of the games where I thought I played a good game last year, and I realized when the ball was thrown down field I was dogging," Schobel said. "Now the whole front, we run. You're around the ball more, you're able to make plays down the field and when somebody fumbles you're able to pick it up. So I think as a front we've made more plays. I noticed that during training camp, and I realized we have to change."

Kollar also says he is happy with the way Schobel is playing the run. Kollar says the problems the Bills have had stopping the run have a lot more to do with players not being in the right spots -- the right fits, the coaches say -- than with linemen getting pushed off the ball.

"He doesn't get knocked off the ball," Kollar said. "He uses his hands well and plays with good leverage, and he has good instincts to get off blocks. He stays down with good leverage. Earlier in the season, the heat was bothering him a little and he wasn't able to do as much. But probably the last eight weeks he's played as good or better than anybody in the league."

The Pro Bowl teams will be announced next week. Then we will see if opposing players and coaches agree. Or if Schobel will remain unheralded and underrated.

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

***

12.5 Total sacks. Tied for first with San Diego's Shawne Merriman.

59 Career sacks. Ranks second all-time in Bills history.

6th Most sacks in NFL since 2001 season.

There are no comments - be the first to comment