Brian Schaefering Minds the Gap

Unheralded defensive lineman Brian Schaefering may play a key role for the Browns this season, particularly if penalties come down on Shaun Rogers and Robaire Smith. Brent Sobleski talked to the up-and-coming DE about what he's learning at camp in the early going...

A lone soul trudged slowly off the field after a taxing yet productive practice.  With the bridge of his nose greatly bruised, due to knocking heads all day, and beads of sweat dripping down his forehead, defensive end Brian Schaefering had just spent most of his day with the first team defense.  The 6-feet-4-inches tall and 295 pound defender was then kind enough to spend a few short minutes with the Orange & Brown Report's Brent Sobleski.

Coming out of the off season, it is apparent that you look different physically.  How hard did the staff push you in workouts?

"Really, they just wanted me to feel comfortable.  They said they wanted me to lose a little bit of weight.  It wasn't much, just change it around a little bit…a little less around my midsection and more in my upper body."

Let's go back in time for a second and talk about the person.   Many may not know your background starting at the University of Illinois and then having to transfer to a small school in Lindenwood before finding your way into the NFL.  How has this made you into the player seen today?

"Getting dismissed from Illinois, it humbled me greatly.  I was a young kid.  I had some early success on the football field.  Simply put, I got a big head.  Again being dismissed, it humbled me, and let me know everything can be taken away from you in a split second."

What were the charges for dismissal from the team?

"Academic issues."

Did you finally graduate?

"I'm two classes away from my bachelor's degree in criminal justice."

Initially today [Monday], it appeared as if you were receiving plenty of repetitions with the first team, particularly in nickel situations.  Quite a different experience than when you came into the Cleveland Browns organization as an undrafted free agent.

"I think the only difference is that I'm getting a little more opportunity to work with the first group.  I still have to work as hard as I did when I got here."

How do you feel your skills fit in the defensive rotation as we enter another season?

"I'm still just trying to make the team.   I don't really look at that stuff.  I'm just trying to be as productive as I can and help the team as much as I can."

Watching your play closely throughout practice, you were really firing off the ball low with good pad level.   Is this an instance to your game which comes naturally, or did you have to take the time to develop?

"That is actually something I have worked on.  Coach [Bryan] Cox has been working with me a lot on that in particular, staying lower, using my hips a lot more this year than I did last year."

Looking at the Browns defensive line, there is plenty of veteran leadership among the ranks with Shaun Rogers, Robaire Smith, and Kenyon Coleman; what do we learn from those guys on a daily basis?

"To be honest, I learn a lot….one, camaraderie, because they are great leaders.   Just because they don't say a lot; just their actions, the way they produce on the field, and handle themselves both on and off the field.  You can learn a lot from them in that regard.  Also, they help us out a lot more than I thought they would.  They talk to us, try to help us with our hand play.  They're basically assistant coaches to Coach Cox."

Some fans may or may not understand the intricacies of the 34 defense and how it differs from other schemes.  To round this interview out, can we please explain some the differences of what a defensive lineman, particularly a 5 technique defense end, is asked to do on a down by down basis?

"Actually our technique is called a ‘tight five'.  My inside eye is lined up with the offensive tackle's outside eye.  In the 43, you are only responsible for one gap.  Which could be the A, B, or C gap; whichever it is.  In our defensive 34, I'm responsible for two gaps.  I'm responsible for both the B and C.   The nose is responsible for both A's.  The other defensive end is responsible for the other B and C.  So this is why we are asked to be a little bigger physically than your average 43 defensive ends, because we are asked to sustain the blocks a little longer than they are.  We're not shooting up the field.  We're more attack and control the blocker.

[NOTE: "A gap" is the space between the center and guard.   The "B gap" is the space between the guard and tackle and the "C gap" is outside of the tackle and between the tight end, if present.]

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