Sep 22, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Cleveland Browns linebacker Barkevious Mingo (51) sacks Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder (7) in the third quarter at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. The Browns win 31-27. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Are Critics Ready to Buy Into Barkevious Mingo?

In two games, Barkevious Mingo has 2 sacks, 4 solo tackles, has drawn 2 holding penalties and been just a disruptive player when he has been on the field.  He has also not been unable to contribute as a run defender.  Mingo has been caught on blocks and driven back, but he has also got into the backfield and helped make the play on the running game.  Going into the NFL Draft and since the pick, there have been numerous critics both on a national level as well as fans of the Browns who have been extremely critical of the pick.  There was significant scrutiny of his weight, his ability to hold up against the size of the NFL, but so far, even in a small sample size, Mingo has not only looked the part, but excelled in opportunities.  If he can keep up this type of play, he has a legitimate shot to win defensive rookie of the year.

Mingo is extremely difficult to prepare for because of the presence of Jabaal Sheard and Paul Kruger.  Those plays are both athletic but use more strength in their game.  When Mingo comes in, the offensive tackles they are facing have gotten used to a certain pace and how fast they go.  They have tried to prepare for Mingo’s explosiveness off of the edge, but seeing it live is different.  His explosion and speed is tough to deal with and it has yielded some big results in a relatively small amount of plays.  He does not slow down as the game wears on either; as fans will find out, that motor never stops and Mingo just never seems to get tired.

The first play of his NFL career in the regular season was a great example.  Mingo came in for Sheard and lined up across from Bryant McKinnie of the Baltimore Ravens.  On the snap, Mingo just blew by McKinnie, wrapped around him and put Joe Flacco on the ground.  Not only was McKinnie unprepared for his speed, but it is unclear if Flacco had any idea what him either.  In that same game, Mingo drew a holding penalty on an offensive lineman as a pass rusher and then drew another on special teams; not a bad debut for a rookie who only played 35 total snaps, 10 of them on special teams.

Against Minnesota, Mingo had a sack that left Phil Loadholt, the right tackle, shaking his head.  Loadholt had put Mingo on the ground and both he and Christian Ponder thought Mingo was basically out of the play.  Ponder stepped up in the pocket in the hole on the right as he scanned the field for receivers.  Mingo got up and exploded into Ponder and put a solid hit on him as he took him to the ground.  It was extremely impressive just how fast he can be.  Earlier in the game, he also had a speed rush where he got around the edge and forced Ponder up in the pocket to avoid him which ran him straight in Billy Winn who got the sack.

Later in the game, Jabaal Sheard left the game with a sprained knee.  It is unclear if Sheard was incapable of coming back into the game or if it was a combination of precautionary move combined with some curiosity to see how Mingo would do as a full time player.  Specifically, this would allow Mingo to show what he could against the running game.  Initially, he got driven back on the first play.  He adjusted quickly and just used his agility to make it difficult for the Vikings offensive linemen to get their hands on him.  He was able to avoid getting blocked and find space to get into the backfield and help disrupt plays.  Mingo is not on the same level of Sheard or Kruger as a run defender but he was not the liability people thought he might be.  He is not Bruce Irvin.

The other area where Mingo can make a big impact is on screen passes.  With many defensive linemen, quarterbacks are relatively comfortable drifting back as the play set up.  Mingo is so explosive and so fast that he made Ponder nervous and got rid of the ball early.  With his ability to close the distance so quickly, if a quarterback is not careful, Mingo is going to sack a screen pass.

Heading into the NFL Draft, there were plenty of skeptics who did not believe Mingo was worth a pick in the top 10 and some that did not believe he was worth going in the first round.  To this point, he has been everything the Browns hoped he could be and their situation with Kruger, Mingo, and Quentin Groves was absolutely a perfect fit for him and that aspect of the pick cannot be underestimated.  Ray Horton can pick his spots and unleash Mingo on quarterbacks and slowly increase his role and how much is put on him in terms of responsibility.  Right now, his main focus is being the best pass rusher he can be.  So many who did not believe Mingo was a dominant player at LSU because they did not understand how the Bayou Bengals used him in a contain role.  All critics saw was 4 sacks.  Some of that was on Mingo missing opportunities that were there (he could have had 4 sacks just against Texas A&M for example), but two games into his NFL career, he has 2 sacks.  Fortunately, the Browns realized how talented Mingo is and he should only get better with time.  The critics of Mingo may not be swayed by two games, but they have to like what they have seen so far and if he can keep going, it is going to be difficult to argue that he was not the right pick for the Browns.

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