BEREA, Ohio -- The 2016 season never fully got underway before it came to an end for Cleveland Browns linebacker Nate Orchard, as a high ankle sprain forced him to injured reserve after just three games.
But during the rehabilitation process, Orchard put his focus into becoming the type of impact player the Browns expected him to be when they selected him in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft out of the University of Utah.
“My mindset and my focus ever since my injury is I visualize myself coming back and being successful,” Orchard said. “I'm going to continue to do that. I'm going to just constantly work on my craft.
“You're always one injury away from a season-ending, a career-ending injury, so I definitely took a step back, looked at my life, analyzed everything, where I wanted to be, who I wanted to be and how I'm going to bounce back from this injury, and I think after this first preseason game, taking the right step forward, I just need to continue to build off that.”
After taking the time to reevaluate some things during the extended break because of injury, Orchard returned to the field when the Browns reported for training camp late last month, and did so in a new position, defensive end.
In Gregg Williams’ defense, Orchard is more of a fit as a 4-3 defensive end rather than a 3-4 outside linebacker, where he played in 2016.
And in his first game action in nearly 11 months, Orchard combined for two tackles, including a half-sack, and had one additional hit on the quarterback in a 20-14 win over the New Orleans Saints at FirstEnergy Stadium last Thursday.
“Me personally, just felt good to go out there and start rushing the passer, but most importantly, looking back at it, all the little details, areas of improvement,” Orchard said. “Felt good getting those sacks, but little things like run stopping, gap responsibility, alignment, technique, stuff like that is what I really focused on taking away from that game.”
Orchard entered the 2015 NFL Draft after registering 18.5 sacks in his final season at Utah, and since returning from injury, his mindset is simple, “Go get the quarterback.”
“It’s a lot easier said than done,” Orchard said. “It’s a lot of film work, a lot of preparation goes into the offseason and training camp, but at the same time, it’s mono y mono. You’ve got to have a mindset of just go get the quarterback. That’s what this game is about, that’s what they pay me to do and that’s what I’m going to do.
“Definitely in this system, but most importantly, just myself mentally and believing in what I do and getting the groove really. I felt myself get in the groove right off the bat, and I've just got to continue to pick up on that.”