The Cleveland Browns suffered their first season-ending injury of the summer in the team’s 10-6 win over the New York Giants on Monday night. Browns head coach Hue Jackson, speaking on a conference call on Tuesday, confirmed that linebacker Tank Carder suffered a torn ACL in the first half of the Browns’ second preseason game and will undergo season-ending surgery.
Jackson added, “We all know Tank has been a great teammate and has worked really hard for the opportunity that was in front of him. He will be missed, no question.” Carder was the early front-runner to serve as the Browns’ starting middle linebacker for 2017. Now, that job will likely belong to 2016 fourth round draft pick Joe Schobert, who has moved from playing outside linebacker as a rookie to the inside under new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Losing Carder is a blow to the Browns’ defense as well as to their special teams, where Carder served as a captain a season ago. But the good news is that Schobert seems more than ready to take on a starting role after spending training camp and the preseason as one of Cleveland’s defensive standouts. Jackson made it clear that Schobert would be the one called upon to take over for Carder, all while singing the praises of the second-year player:
“I thought Joe is really improved and has done a great job. He has had a tremendous training camp and first two preseason games. He is very smart... It is a real luxury when you lose somebody like Tank, so I think Joe will fit the bill and do what is necessary to play the position and play it well.”
Pro Football Focus noted Schobert as one of the Browns’ standouts against the Giants, giving him their second-highest grade on the team. He had six tackles—five solo as well as one for a loss—a sack and a pass defensed in the game. That performance has helped bring his preseason tally to an impressive seven defensive stops and two sacks while only playing 37 snaps through two games:
Joe Schobert hasn't even played a full game's worth of snaps this preseason and he's already stuffing the stat sheet pic.twitter.com/sbtDhL5796— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) August 22, 2017
Behind Schobert are two undrafted players, rookie Kenneth Olugbode and 2016 signee Dominique Alexander. Because of the relatively untested group of middle linebacker candidates currently on the roster, it would come as no surprise if the Browns try to add a veteran into the lineup, whether sooner—before Saturday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—or later—after the September 2nd cut-down day which reduces rosters to no more than 53 players, to serve as depth.
But in the next-man-up world that is the NFL, subbing out Carder for Schobert should not yield too much of a step down in quality of defensive play, given how skilled and prepared Schobert has looked so far this year.