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Browns LB Nate Orchard's goal for 2016? 'Just make big plays'

Months removed from his rookie season, Browns outside linebacker Nate Orchard could truly reflect on the internal back-and-forth he battled as he searched for his first NFL sack.

It wasn't enjoyable for the former second-round pick, but the relief he felt when he finally got it -- Week 13 against the 49ers -- made it worth the wait.

"I got a couple buddies across the league and I look at their stats. Some were first-round picks. It's got to be hard not to score your first touchdown or get your first sack," Orchard said Wednesday on Cleveland Browns Daily. "It was great to get that monkey off your back. It'd be hard to go a year without one."

Ultimately, Orchard finished with three, as he picked up two in that memorable game against the 49ers and another at Kansas City. His performance provided some optimism about the Browns' desire to improve their pass rushing after a season in which it was far too inconsistent for sustainable success on defense.

Noticeably bigger and stronger than when he arrived in Berea as a fresh-faced rookie out of Utah, Orchard has carried a veteran's mindset into a productive month-plus of offseason workouts and classwork.

"There's no stress on you. There's no pressure to where you've got to know these things right away. You come in with experience already and a sense of respect from your teammates and coaches," Orchard said. "You've got to come in to do your work every day, be a pro."

In the coming days, that work will include mentorship, as Orchard plans to guide the likes of second-round pick Emmanuel Ogbah, Joe Schobert and Carl Nassib through the sometimes daunting transition from college to the NFL. Orchard and Nassib are familiar with each other, as they connected through winning the Ted Hendricks Award, given to college football's best defensive end, in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

With the recent addition of Jackson Jeffcoat, the Browns have the last three Hendricks Award winners on their roster.

"Watching the draft, I see (Nassib's) name pop up on the ticker and there you go. We're on the same team," Orchard said. "I texted him and said, 'hey man, I can't wait for you to get out here.'"

Orchard went from 18.5 sacks as a senior at Utah to three as an NFL rookie. He didn't put a number on his specific goals for 2016, but he made it clear he'd love to get the monkey off his back much earlier in his second season with the Browns.

"Just make big plays," Orchard said.

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