Buffalo Bills defensive end Aaron Schobel says some tweaking of his alignment makes him optimistic about his game heading into the bye week of the NFL schedule.
"I feel like the last couple games I'm starting to rush better," Schobel said after the Bills' practice Tuesday. "I haven't got sacks. But I think I'm on the right track as far as doing what I need to do to improve, to help the team."
Schobel thinks he has lined up a little too wide, too far outside the offensive tackle, too often through the first quarter of the season.
"I think I'm getting to a point where I feel like I'm close," Schobel said. "I know what I need to do. I thought I knew what I needed to do, and it wasn't right. So I changed up my alignment. It's all about angles when you're rushing the passer. I think I was too wide lately, so I'll tighten down and that helps me get on them quicker."
Schobel has just one sack through five games, and the Bills' pass rush overall ranks 17th in the league in sacks per pass attempt.
While Schobel still ranks first in the AFC in sacks over the past five-plus seasons with 53, he is coming off a season in which he recorded 6.5, his lowest total since his rookie year.
So even though he stresses sacks are overrated -- "I play 1,000 plays in a year and you all judge me on five or 10" -- he admits he's eager to get to the quarterback in the coming weeks.
"Yeah, it's frustrating," said Schobel, who had 14 sacks in 2006. "I haven't had many in the last two years. But honestly, if you watch the tape, you can't tell me from the '06 season to right now what's the difference. If you sat there and watched 1,000 plays, you couldn't tell me which season is which. So I don't feel I'm playing any different. Obviously, last year I had 6 1/2 sacks and still went to the Pro Bowl, so I think teams understand I'm a factor in the game, and I still feel that way."
Nevertheless, Schobel says he's motivated to keep working and refining his game. He said missed tackles have cost him three sacks this year.
"I've had good rushes, I've had bad rushes, I've had rushes where I wish I could re-do them," he said. "I've missed three sacks. If I had those three and that put me at four, we wouldn't be having this talk. So when they're there, I've got to make them."
Schobel ranks second on the team in tackles with 32. He said the Bills run defense has been hurt the last two games mostly by draw plays.
"In the St. Louis game, they ran a bunch of draws and it worked," he said. "So Arizona came back . . . and ran the draws. They get you going upfield, and it makes the gaps bigger. Until we stop it, that's what teams are going to do. We have to adjust off of that."
Schobel said lining up not so wide should help him play those runs better.
"Me tightening down helps me recognize the draw quicker because I'm closer," he said. "So I think me, personally, I'm on the right track to doing what I need to do.
"I ain't gonna tell you I'm going to start getting sacks," Schobel said. "I'm telling you I feel more comfortable about doing what I need to do."
Physically, Schobel has dealt with a sore foot the past two weeks. He took a pain-killing shot before the Arizona game and said it didn't bother him until late in the game.
"I had it numbed, but it wore off by the fourth quarter," he said. "It's some kind of ligament, and it only hurts if I push off the big toe. But I've got two weeks [to heal]. It's a little sore now, but I'll be all right."