Is a bigger Barkevious Mingo a better Barkevious Mingo?
By Thomas Moore
Cleveland Browns linebacker Barkevious Mingo has reshaped his body. Will it be enough to reshape his game?
Barkevious Mingo has been one of the more polarizing players on the Cleveland Browns since joining the team as a first-round selection in 2013.
Mingo was sold to Browns fans as the answer to the team’s pass-rushing woes, even though he was being tasked with making the transition from college defensive end to outside linebacker in the NFL.
He was mildly effective as a rookie under defensive coordinator Ray Horton, posting five sacks in 15 games. A regime change following that season brought with it new responsibilities for Mingo, as former head coach Mike Pettine wanted to utilize Mingo’s speed as a coverage linebacker.
Mingo’s sack numbers went down, obviously, as he took on a new role, much to the chagrin of fans who still saw Mingo as a pass-rusher extraordinaire.
“I think he’s yet to be tapped into, per se, as to what he can do and how versatile he may be able to be in different types of roles.” – Paul Kruger on Barkevious Mingo
Through it all, Mingo has exhibited the type of positive attitude that makes it easy to want him to succeed.
Now with yet another regime change, Mingo has another chance to reinvent his game under the return of Horton as defensive coordinator. And continuing with the attitude that he will do whatever he needs to do, Mingo spent the off-season working to transform his body.
The fourth-year linebacker, who reportedly finished last season at 227 pounds — almost 50 pounds lighter than fellow linebacker Paul Kruger despite being the same height — spent a little more than a month working with a former body builder. He trained twice a day and consumed almost 6,000 calories a day to pack on not just weight, but muscle as well.
“We thought it was the best thing for Keke and for the Browns,” Rick Roberts, one of Mingo’s agents, told cleveland.com. “He looked at us and said, ‘I’m all in.’ ”
All the work paid off as Mingo went from weighing 230 pounds to 251 pounds.
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“Honestly, this whole offseason, my main focus was getting bigger — bigger, faster, stronger — and just coming into the building and coming into the workouts bigger, faster and stronger,” Mingo said this week. “I achieved my goals and am excited to get to work with the guys that we brought back and the guys we’ve brought in.”
The 2016 season is an important one for Mingo’s future with the Browns. Cleveland has until May 2 to decide if they want to pick up Mingo’s fifth-year option – at a cost of $11.925 million – or let him play out the upcoming season to see how he adapts to his new role in Horton’s defense and then potentially work out a new contract.
Joel Corry at CBS Sports believes the Browns will take the wait-and-see approach to Mingo:
"Mingo reportedly being shopped to other teams prior to last season’s trading deadline suggests that the Browns will pass on a fifth year for $11.925 million. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who held the same position with the Browns during Mingo’s rookie year before joining the Titans, will try to get Mingo to live up to his draft position by using him differently than in the past."
Mingo’s attitude and willingness to do whatever the team asks of him stands out in sharp contrast to some of his fellow first-round picks that have been a burden to the Browns in recent years.
Whether or not his attitude and a return to Horton’s defense are enough to bring out the potential that many saw in him in 2013 remains to be seen.