Top 50 All-Time Bills, No. 31: DE Aaron Schobel

DE Aaron Schobel (2001 - present) | 6'4", 243 lbs

Notable Achievements: Two-time Pro Bowl selection, Second Team All-Pro (2006)

Aaron Ross Schobel was born on September 1, 1977 in Columbus, Texas. He went on to earn All-District honors at Columbus High School at both outside linebacker and tight end.  He posted 105 tackles during his senior year and proved to be a prolific receiver, pulling down 70 receptions for 1,299 yards over his final two seasons.  Following his stellar high school career, Schobel went on to attend Texas Christian University (where he was a teammate of LaDainian Tomlinson). As a Horned Frog, Schobel developed into one of the nation's best defenders by his senior season. He graduated as the school's all-time leader in sacks with 31.0 and in tackling yardage for loss with 315.  Schobel earned First Team All-WAC honors in each of his final three seasons (1998-2000), and was named the WAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2000.  Following a great career at TCU, the Buffalo Bills made Schobel a second-round pick in the 2001 NFL Draft, No. 46 overall.  He has developed into one of the better defenders in Bills history during his eight seasons as a pro.

Career Highlights
Schobel
is one of the more under-appreciated defensive players in team history, with a quality all-around game, albeit with some questionable pass rushing skills.  Although many Bills fans, including yours truly, have never considered him an elite pass rusher, his consistency and overall production speaks volumes.

He's become one of the most productive defenders in team history because of his hard work, hustle and never-say-die attitude.  He isn't the type of player that relies on his speed and athleticism to beat blockers.  Instead, he uses his smarts, physicality, technique and pure grit to get the job done.  To have done it for so long and been as consistent as he has been is commendable, and a testament to the type of person Schobel is.  Even though Schobel isn't showy, his quick wit and serious attitude make him a player to respect and root for.

Upon entering the league in 2001, Schobel immediately became a mainstay on the Bills' defensive line.  He ended up starting 11 games in his first year, en route to a team-best 6.5 sacks during a quality rookie season.  He had a pair of two-sack games that year, ironically enough both against Tom Brady and the Super Bowl champion Patriots.  The team finished 3-13, but Schobel was well on his way to a successful career.  He improved on those rookie numbers with 8.5 sacks in his second year.  His best game that year came in a thrilling overtime win against Minnesota, where he sacked Daunte Culpepper 2.5 times.  Schobel's improvement continued in 2003, when he finished with a well-earned 11.5 sacks.  He had a stretch of four games late in the season where he accumulated seven sacks, including three in a win over the Giants in the Meadowlands. 

After a slight dip in production in 2004, in which he finished with eight sacks and a career-best five forced fumbles, Schobel came back with 12 sacks in 2005.  He had four multi-sack games that year, proving that he knows how to accumulate sacks in bunches.  Schobel's best season came in 2006, when he finished with a career-best 14 sacks and finally earned his first Pro Bowl berth.  The highlight of his season came in a December upset of the Jets in New Jersey, where he sacks Jets quarterbacks three times.  He became just the second Bill to have back-to-back 10-sack seasons since Bruce Smith, and just the third Bill to have three 10-sack seasons in their career.

After that career year, Schobel looks to be on the downside of his career.  He finished with just 6.5 sacks during the 2007 season, but was added to the Pro Bowl after an injured Jason Taylor couldn't play.  He did add five more forced fumbles that year and continued to prove how underrated he was as a run defender.  Schobel was well on his way to his worst season as a pro in 2008 before he was placed on Injured Reserve due to a Lisfranc sprain.  He missed his first games since his freshman year of high school to boot. He finished with just one sack in five games, and that has left many to wonder whether he can return to his productive ways in 2009. 

Despite a career that seems to be heading for the exit, Schobel remains one of the better players on an improving Bills defense.  His pass rush ability has begun to deteriorate, but he's still likely to provide a boost to a sagging pass rush. 

Best Moment
Despite some productive seasons and good career numbers, there are very few moments that stick out for Schobel.  Many would argue the majority of his sacks have come in less than meaningful moments, but he has had some great games.  The three-sack performance against D'Brickashaw Ferguson and the Jets in 2006 stands out. His 2.5 sacks against the Dolphins in Week 6 of 2004 helped the team earn their first victory.  There just haven't been a lot of highlights, despite a very good career highlighted by a pair of Pro Bowls. Go figure.

Parting Shot
Aaron Schobel is one of the best defensive linemen in Bills history.  He's also a bit overrated - at least, his sack numbers seem to be.  For informational purposes, it was worth breaking down his sack numbers for a better look at his overall impact.  In games decided by single digits, whether they were wins or losses, Schobel has just 26.5 sacks, out of his 68 overall.  Only 32 have come in victories.  58.5 of his career sacks have come in losses or in 10+ point victories.  Obviously, playing for poor teams hasn't helped, but proof that few of Schobel's sacks have come in critical moments keeps him from checking in higher on this list.  While his sack totals may be a little bit overrated, there is no doubt that Schobel has been constantly under-appreciated for his work against the run.  His ability to control his side of the defense, preventing big runs outside his end has given a boost to a defense that always needs it.  Schobel can cement his legacy and move up the rankings over the coming years with a return to form and consistent production.

"Tremendous player," coach Dick Jauron said of Schobel. "He's a guy that wins a lot of matchups. One of the premier players in the league at his position and when he's not on the field we definitely miss him."

Not sure I totally agree with Dick Jauron there, but he's right about Schobel winning a lot of matchups and the team missing him while he was out.

Career Stats
117 games, 112 starts
68.0 sacks (No. 2 in franchise history)
18 forced fumbles (No. 2)
7 fumbles recovered (No. 17 defensively)
2 interceptions (No. 85)
27 passes defended (No. 7)
427 total tackles (No. 9)

aaron_schobel
The Bills defense could use more of this in the future.
(photo source)

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