Is rookie Nate Orchard ready to breakout as an elite pass rusher?

After getting his first two NFL sacks last Sunday, is Nate Orchard ready to breakout as an elite pass rusher?

BEREA—Rookie Nate Orchard was waiting for that game.

The second-round pick from Utah had his first two NFL sacks last Sunday against the 49ers.

“Words can’t describe it,” Orchard said. “It is a huge monkey off my back. It has been a long time. I work so hard and it is such a long season, but to finally get those, not the first, but my second one, as well, was a great feeling.”

A big reason that Orchard was drafted so high was for his ability to get to the passer. He had 18.5 sacks last season at Utah on his way to being named a first team All-American.

Orchard said he knew if he kept working, things would start to happen for him. 

“I am a confident guy,” he said. “I am confident in my work and what I do. I relish my role and what it is but to add that to the stat sheet is a great feeling because it has been too long.”

Orchard has 30 tackles with three passes broken up and a forced fumble. He has started the last seven games for the Browns at outside linebacker.

Orchard said he didn’t feel any pressure to get his first NFL sack.

“No, no pressure at all. I am a rookie. It is my first year. I am going to get plenty of sacks in my career. I am not worried about that. What I can do now is help the team in my position and whatever the coaches need me to do, I can do that.”

He said he never doubted himself.

“No, not at all,” he said “I was confident in myself and learned to understand my role in the defense. From there, when an opportunity presents itself, I had to make the most of it.”

Orchard said he feels he’s been able to adjust to the NFL game.

“You learn to adjust to the game real quick – the tempo, the speed, the strength. It changes week to week,” he said. “The biggest thing is the playbook. That game plan, they can get complicated at times, but the coaches do a good job of making it simple for us so we can go out there and play fast and not have to worry so much.”

Orchard said he is confident that he can put up double digit sack numbers.

 “Most definitely,” he said. “Most definitely. That is what I am here to do. That is what I am going to work towards. I just want to be the best. I have great teammates around me – Paul Kruger, (Barkevious) Mingo, those guys, Scott Solomon, everyone. We help each other. We encourage one another. We are working every day on our pass rush game and to be the best.”

 Extra Points

Pettine’s Updated QB Rankings: After receiving some flak for calling QB Russell Wilson a “next-tier” quarterback on Wednesday, Pettine opened his press conference by saying that he has updated his quarterback rankings.

“If anyone’s interested, I have my updated quarterback rankings,” Pettine said laughing. “Every quarterback that’s ever played is tied for one, the best ever.”

 He then was asked his ranking of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.

“The best ever – tied! Tied for the best ever because I don’t want to slight anybody else when I slot somebody somewhere (laughter).”

Hawkins, Gilbert Still Out: WR Andrew Hawkins, DB Justin Gilbert and RB Glenn Winston all missed practice with concussions on Thursday. WR Marlon Moore (ribs) and DB K’Waun Williams (shoulder) wore red non-contact jerseys in practice. OL Joe Thomas sat out practice for the second-straight day, but Pettine doesn’t think Thomas will miss the game.

 “At this point, I don’t see anything that will keep him out of this game.”

Thomas has not only never missed a game in his career, he has not missed an offensive snap.

New RB: The Browns on Wednesday claimed RB Raheem Mostert via waivers from Baltimore. In addition, the team waived WR Darius Jennings. Mostert (5-10, 197) originally signed with Philadelphia as an undrafted free agent. After spending Week 1 on the Eagles’ practice squad, he has appeared in eight NFL games – one with the Dolphins and seven with the Ravens. Mostert is averaging 31.6 yards per kickoff return (221 yards on seven attempts) this season after setting a program record with 2,289 career kickoff return yards during his four years at Purdue.

With the Browns, Jennings registered five catches for 35 yards and returned five kickoffs for 112 yards (22.4 average) in the past two games after being elevated to the active roster from the team’s practice squad on Dec. 5. The undrafted rookie from Virginia spent the first 12 weeks of the season on Cleveland’s practice squad after signing with the Browns as an undrafted free agent following a tryout during the team’s rookie minicamp.

“We know him very well and when he crossed the wire, he caught my eye,” Tabor said. 

Why Cut Jennings?: Pettine was asked to explain why the Browns chose to release WR Darius Jennings when they signed Mostert.

“Not too deep,” Pettine said. “When Mostert became available from Baltimore, he was a guy that we had – Tabes (special teams coordinator Chris Tabor) I know, he’s a pretty good special teamer first and then has value as a third back. There’s a speed element there. It was a tough time for him to become available. We had to make a roster move. (General Manager) Ray (Farmer) and I, we talked about it, and that’s the direction we went.”

Jennings was activated when WR Taylor Gabriel and WR Andrew Hawkins were out with concussions and was praised for his play in his first NFL game. Jennings is eligible to be re-signed to the practice squad, if he clears waivers. 

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