Feeling more at home with the Washington Redskins, defensive end Stephen Paea wants to let his natural instincts and sheer power drive his play in 2016.
Entering his second year with the Washington Redskins, one of Stephen Paea's goals as he returns from a season-ending injury suffered in 2015 is to play faster.
Paea signed with the Redskins last season and hoped to make an immediate impact. While Paea had his moments, he felt he didn't do enough – particularly when it came to how quick he was getting off the line – before suffering a toe injury in early December.
"Of course I was frustrated," Paea said. "I wanted to help the team. They brought me here from Chicago because they believed in me and I don't want to let any of them down, coaches or teammates. But I have one year under my belt, with the playbook, when you have all that down you play fast. That's all I can do, go out there and compete."
Often when a veteran player changes teams and systems, there is going to be a learning curve both in scheme and terminology, defensive coordinator Joe Barry said. Now that Paea has been around the Redskins system for a full year, Barry is hoping Paea can play faster than he did last season.
"He's got ability and he can play and the thing with that, I think Stephen sometimes – with a lot of players – tends to overanalyze things, and Stephen is at his best when he just gets off the ball and goes and I think he's getting back to that," Barry said. "Stop thinking. It doesn't matter if you're playing a one-technique, a three-technique, a five-technique, doesn't matter if it's base, doesn't matter if it's nickel, just get off the ball and go. So, I'm expecting big things out of him this year, as is he. He's a very good football player and he can do something in this league, big time."
Paea, of course, is one of the strongest players in the NFL. In 2011, the consensus All-American from Oregon State set the NFL Combine record for the bench press with 49 reps of 225 pounds. Barry hopes Paea can turn his brute strength into results on the field.
Check out behind the scenes images of defensive lineman Stephen Paea's 2015 Photo Shoot.
"I've seen Stephen perform at a high level before, I thought he was a great player coming out of college," Barry said. "I have high expectations for all of our players and Stephen is included. So I think he has got to get back to getting off the ball and causing havoc in the backfield and that is when he is at his best. Whether it is run or pass, getting off the ball and being violent and I think he's getting to that stage as far as comfort in the system. He is 100 percent healthy so I think those two things in combination are really going to help him."
In addition to his health, the Redskins' defensive depth should help Paea's performance this season with coaches rotating lineman to keep players fresh.
"We have six defensive linemen that could start," Paea said. "We compete and get better with competition. If I can make myself better, then that's all I can do. We trust each other to do our jobs and we just have to perform."
Excited about the prospect of returning to such a defensive, Paea believes that the sky's the limit for a unit that was significantly bolstered during the offseason.
"[I just have] to stay healthy," Paea said. "[I have] to execute and play fast, that one thing I learned. You just have to play fast. This year it'll be less thinking, more doing."