O’Brien Schofield has the talent and the ability to be a very successful starting caliber outside linebacker/defensive end in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals. But will he ever reach his full potential and make an impact for the Arizona Cardinals? It is my belief that this will be a crucial and pivotal year for Schofield if he wants to stay on-board with the Redbirds.
The former Wisconsin Badger was regarded as a potential first round draft pick coming out of college in 2010. However, because of a very unfortunate injury to his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (torn ACL) during a Senior Bowl practice after his senior season, he was not provided the opportunity to find out. Later that spring, Schofield was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the fourth round (130th pick overall) of the NFL draft.
Before the injury, Schofield was ranked second in tackles for a loss with 24.5 and second in sacks with 12 in the Big Ten Conference. He was also named to the All-Big Ten team and second team All-American during his senior year. Furthermore, prior to the Senior Bowl at the East-West Shrine game in 2010, Schofield was named defensive MVP.
Standing 6’3″ and approximately 250 pounds, Schofield has all the tools to be very successful in the NFL. He has a great combination of strength, size and athleticism. He is a tough hard-nosed player that does have the foot quickness and great instincts to be extremely successful in the NFL.
He is also very versatile and can play with his hand on ground as a defensive end or standing up as a pass-rush linebacker in the 3-4 defensive alignment. He also has very good lateral (quickness) movement to be able to cover tight-ends and running backs coming out of the backfield.
However, Schofield has yet to live up to his potential consistently in the NFL with the Cardinals. There have been a few signs during the last couple of years with his play on the field, but it has been few and far between. There just has not been enough consistent playing time with him primarily because he has had trouble consistently staying on the field do to nagging injuries.
I truly believe with the new regime or in Todd Bowles’ defensive scheme, Schofield does have a chance to be very successful. As Bowles plans to continue to utilize the 3-4 defense the Cardinals were very successful in last year under Ray Horton. However, even if Bowles does decide to utilize some 4-3 defensive schemes, which I believe he will do, Schofield also has the ability to put his hand on the ground as a defensive end.
So, there is definitely a scheme fit under Bowles’ defensive system primarily because of Schofield’s versatility.
I also believe Bowles will attempt to utilize what Schofield does best (his versatility) and he will indeed give him every opportunity to succeed from now until training camp. Having said that, unfortunately for Schofield, the new regime does not have any ties with him, so I do believe there will probably be a very short leash with him.
During the off-season, Arians, Bowles and staff have already brought in former Washington Redskins Outside Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, drafted former Texas Longhorn Alex Okafor to play the (OLB)same position and there has also been some action at that spot (in the organized team activities) for new free-agent acquisition and former Oakland Raider (DE, OLB) Matt Shaughnessy.
Not to mention the up and coming Sam Acho, who seems to have a great shot of securing one of the (two) OLB spots.
In conclusion, after putting all the pieces of the puzzle together, it all adds up to a very short leash for Schofield this year. If he does not produce or show immensely from now until the end of training camp, there may not be room for him on the current roster.
He has all the skills to have great success at the position, however he must stay healthy and show the new regime that he will be a force to be reckoned with.
If he does not stand out above the rest in the next few months, this could be the end of his stay with the Cardinals. Let’s just hope that this is the year for Schofield to finally get over the hump and become worth keeping on the roster. Let’s hope that he finally proves to be worthy of the first-round potential he was regarded as before that unfortunate and fateful week at the Senior Bowl practice.