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Quiet but consistent, Joe Schobert out to again do his job as part of talented defense

Joe Schobert has been to the Pro Bowl. He's made a lot of tackles. He's also seen his share of losses.

That changed last season for the middle linebacker, who finished with 100-plus tackles for the second straight season and won more games in one campaign than he'd won in his first two seasons combined. A year earlier, he tied for the NFL lead in total tackles and made his first Pro Bowl as a result. 

This year, through three preseason weeks, he's trending toward his best campaign yet -- and the spotlight is pointed everywhere but No. 53.

That's perfectly fine for Schobert, who is surrounded by defensive stars who command more attention. He's just here to keep making plays.

"I just want to do my job in the defense," Schobert explained Monday after practice. "My goal I set every year is to get 100 tackles and affect the game in a positive way. And if I can do that, things are going to align where they are and life will be good if you just do your job."

Life has indeed been good for the former preferred walk-on at Wisconsin who appeared in 45 games (28 starts) and earned All-American honors before he was selected by the Browns in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. Never mind the fact he's in a contract year -- he's playing better than ever through three preseason games, according to Pro Football Focus.

"I think he has done good," head coach Freddie Kitchens said of Schobert on Monday. "Scho's a smart guy in there, he can get them lined up. He can get himself lined up and he seems to be playing fast. So that is a good sign of somebody that gets it. He has definitely been playing well."

Schobert played his most snaps of the preseason Friday in Tampa, where he registered five tackles and a pass defended and was a constant presence in the middle of the field. He also received an up-close look at how good the guys in front of him can be, and how much they might help him flourish in 2019.

"When you are a linebacker and you get back into your drop, and as soon as you get to your landmark, you turn around and the quarterback is on the ground and you just drive back to the huddle every play. It makes you feel better," Schobert said. "You feel like you are in much better shape when that happens instead of chasing receivers around all play if they can not get the quarterback down. Live in person, right behind them, those guys can really get after it."

Those guys will be the ones pressuring quarterbacks and attracting eyeballs, while Schobert will be there to clean up any and all messes. That's how he aims to again achieve his annual 100-plus-tackle goal, and also how he will attempt to solve his upcoming contract situation. With Schobert entering the final year of his rookie deal, he knows effective play will be more effective than anything else when it comes to signing a new agreement.

He knows this because this approach is what got him here. Once he hit that 100-tackle mark, "everything after that just kind of fell into place."

Now, he's focused on achieving as a team. He knows this team is talented enough to make serious noise in the AFC North and beyond, and as everyone who's ever played a sport will acknowledge, "football is so much more fun when you're winning games."

"If everybody stays healthy and can play all 16 games this year until the playoffs," Schobert said, "we're going to be a darn good team with a darn good defense that a lot of teams are going to have to take notice of and prepare for."

Perhaps then they'll also wisely take note of No. 53.