During last week’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, linebacker Joe Schobert left early with a hamstring injury. The timetable for Schobert’s return is currently unknown and this is a big issue for the Browns defense. Schobert was in the middle of another stellar year before the injury and now it is incumbent on the rest of the team to step up in his absence.
Moving to the middle linebacker spot will be Christian Kirksey. Rookie Genard Avery will get his first career start in Kirksey’s typical spot at outside linebacker. Kirksey, much like Schobert, is in the midst of a good season, but will now be asked to do things he was not doing so far this season.
The Schobert injury is especially tough to deal with as the Browns head into their Week 7 matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs have two tight ends, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, who have been playing well this season. Howard has been targeted 21 times so far this season and has a catch percentage of 71.4%, while Brate has caught a touchdown pass in the team’s last three games. The Browns have had some difficulties covering tight ends except for Joe Schobert. As you can see from the graphic below, Schobert has the lowest passer rating against while in coverage this season.
Two players who will need to step up to stop Howard and Brate are Kirksey and safety Jabrill Peppers. Peppers has played better the last few weeks, both defensively and in his role in special teams. Both Kirksey and Peppers have the ability and athleticism to stop these tight ends, the only question is will they do it?
We will find out the answer to that question on Sunday, starting at 1:00.
Images: Fox, PFF