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Nate Orchard's new position is old hat after shining in preseason opener

If it was easy to forget that Nate Orchard nearly led the nation in sacks at Utah, the third-year defensive end picked reminded everyone of that feat Thursday night.

Orchard, who missed most of the 2016 season with an ankle injury, shined in the Browns' preseason opener against New Orleans, recording two tackles, a half sack and quarterback hurry.

It marked the first game back for Orchard following an offseason in which he changed positions and refocused himself under new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

After suffering an injury on the final play of the Dolphins game last year, Orchard was placed on injured reserve and did not return.  As frustrating as the setback was, it helped offer the former second-round NFL Draft pick perspective.

"It's the game of football, you're always one injury away from a season-ending or 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 wanted to bounce back from this injury."

After amassing 18.5 sacks as the Utes' premier edge rusher before being drafted to Cleveland in 2015, Orchard's competing for a role on what's arguably the Browns' deepest position group. And after two seasons at linebacker — including 11 starts as a rookie — he moved back to the defensive line.

"I thought Nate Orchard showed up last night," head coach Hue Jackson said of Thursday's debut. "That was outstanding to watch him go in there and compete like he did."

Indeed, Orchard was all over the field, helping spearhead a defensive effort in which the Browns defense help the Saints to 320 total yards.

Orchard said he was focused on "rushing the passer, but most importantly, it's just looking back at all the little details, areas of improvement," he said.

"Felt good getting those sacks, but little things like run stopping, gap responsibility, alignment, technique, stuff like that. That is what I really focused on taking away from that game."

And as the Browns return to practice before hosting the Giants on Aug. 21, he'll have a chance to grow from his 2017 debut, new position and all.

"I think after this first preseason game," he said, "I'm taking the right step forward. I just need to build off of that."

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