Last week, the Jets signed offensive lineman Sam Schlueter to their practice squad. Today, we break down Schlueter in detail.
The 25-year old Schlueter is listed at 6’6” and 309 pounds and was undrafted out of Minnesota this April. He played in two preseason games as an undrafted free agent with the 49ers but was released with an injury settlement and hasn’t been with a team since then.
Schlueter was a three-star recruit out of high school and headed to Minnesota, where he redshirted his first season in 2016.
In his first two seasons, Schlueter played in 23 games, starting 13. He then became a full-time starter in 2019 and started 33 games in a row over the next three years, having opted for a sixth year of eligibility in 2021.
Schlueter was an all-Big Ten honorable mention in each of his three seasons as a full-time starter, but wasn’t invited to the scouting combine or senior bowl and wasn’t selected in the 2022 draft.
He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the 49ers and attended camp with them but then suffered an injury in the second preseason game and was eventually released with an injury settlement.
The Jets added him to their practice squad after Laurent Duvernay-Tardif was promoted to the active roster last week.
Now let’s take a look at what Schlueter brings to the table, divided into categories.
Schlueter has good size and average length, but his athletic numbers are unremarkable. He ran a 5.5 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day and managed 21 bench press reps. His explosiveness and agility numbers were about average.
He shows flashes of athletic ability at times, though, like on this gadget play from the Golden Gopher’s spring game:
10 of Schlueter’s 46 college starts were at right tackle, all of them in his first two seasons. The rest of the time he was at left tackle, although the Golden Gophers did run some unbalanced lines so he would sometimes find himself on the other side or at tight end. He played left tackle in preseason.
In high school, Schlueter also played on defense, registering six sacks in his senior year. He also spent some time as a receiver in his junior year, catching seven passes, including one for a touchdown.
Schlueter’s pass protection numbers weren’t too bad, as he never gave up more than 20 pressures in a season. He gave up 11 sacks in five seasons.
Nevertheless, his pass protection is one area that requires plenty of work. He tends to look more comfortable blocking someone who is lined up directly across from him than someone rushing around the outside.
While his technique needs a bit of fine-tuning and he could benefit from building his strength, he battles well and his pass blocking foundation isn’t too bad.
Schlueter doesn’t make a lot of mistakes but has never been consistent enough to be a really dominant run blocker. He tends to be better at blocking straight ahead rather than fighting for leverage and a common pattern was that he initially gets into a good position to make a block but doesn’t sustain it throughout the play.
Early on in his first preseason game he got a rude awakening from his man who drove him back into the backfield and shed his block to stuff the run.
He settled down thereafter but even when his blocking was effective it was still a little sloppy. On this play he blocks down on a defensive tackle to seal him to the inside and then tries to peel off to the second level, but he doesn’t get to this block in time to block his man out of the play. Even so, he got enough of him to set up a nine-yard run. These are the types of plays where you can see he needs a few tweaks.
Schlueter had some success in short yardage situations at the college level. On this play from preseason, he got enough of his man to kick him out and create a temporary lane, although again he didn’t really stay on the block as well as you’d like.
The Golden Gophers didn’t run that many screen passes, but Schlueter showed on this play that he can get out in front and seal off a target. He again doesn’t stay on the block, though, and is inconsistent in space generally which would limit his effectiveness within this role.
As you’ve already seen, Schlueter can fall off blocks and overextend but his other main issue is hand placement. He can be inconsistent with his punch accuracy and control and sometimes doesn’t get his hands up at all.
In the running game, his footwork can also be inconsistent and he needs to be more active with his feet sometimes to stay in front of his man but he does show an ability to this sometimes.
Here’s another example of his moving his feet well at first but not sustaining it throughout the play. He gets inside leverage on the reach block and seems to have his man walled off, but still allows him to get back into the play.
Schlueter has displayed decent on-field discipline during his college career with just 11 penalties in five seasons. He had four in his final season including two for holding and one for being illegally downfield on a pass.
Predictably, Schlueter’s only special teams role in college and preseason was as a blocker on the placekicking unit. He hasn’t made any mistakes in this role.
Schlueter, who was earned all-Big Ten academic honors five times, seems to do a good job of understanding and carrying out his assignments.
Here’s an example of him picking up a stunt to set up a downfield completion, although realistically if a tackle struggles with edge pressure anyway this perhaps isn’t something that’s worth doing on his side.
Schlueter became a leader for the Golden Gophers after opting to return for a sixth season and said he learned to put more effort into preparation and the finer details.
He said that getting benched during a 2018 game after a rough first half had a positive effect on him because it encouraged him to dedicate himself more.
Scouting reports indicate that Schlueter plays with nastiness and aggression, although as observed he doesn’t always stay on his block to the whistle.
Schlueter played in 56 college games, so obviously injuries weren’t a big issue for him. However, he suffered a knee injury in preseason, which is what ended his time with the 49ers. Clearly he’s recovered from that now if he’s joined the Jets, though.
The Golden Gophers were mostly a zone blocking team in the running game but did also run some gap/power so he should be adept in most aspect of the Jets system.
The fact that Schlueter has looked more comfortable when matched up with 5-techniques and struggled with speed rushers off the edge has led to some speculation he could try a move inside, but he’s never played guard so this would be a long-term project.
He has not played with any current Jets players.
There’s virtually no chance Schlueter will be called upon to contribute to the main roster in the remainder of this season. Only a series of further offensive line injuries would put him in the picture to play and even if that happened they’d probably revert to signing a more experienced player off the street.
For now, Schlueter can be considered as a live body for practice and a longer-term developmental project. If he can show them enough over the next month, they’ll invite him back to camp and we can see if technical refinements will have a positive effect on him.
With his experience at both tackle positions, he’s likely gunning for a chance to pick up a swing tackle role somewhere around the league, but the Jets have so many potential candidates for offensive line roles next season, he may have to be patient.