Back in July, Michael Lombardi commented on his first pick to start his tenure as the Browns General Manager (per CantonRep.com):
“He plays hard. He’s kind of symbolic of players we’re trying to acquire here in terms of…plays hard, plays with passion, athletic, can run. Obviously, he has a long way to go.”
So far this year, Mingo has been one of the best rookie pass rushers, battling with fellow Top 10 pick Ezekiel Ansah and Patriots late rounder Chris Jones for most sacks among first year players. And while against the Packers he struggled to “produce” as a pass rusher, he proved that despite having a long way to go, he has the skill set and motor to be a staple for the Browns defense for many years.
Here’s an excerpt from our scouting report on Mingo pre-draft:
“At 6-4, 240 pounds with plus length, natural movement skills, surprising strength and outstanding burst, Mingo presents a physical skill set that would leave defensive line coaches salivating over his potential. Ultimately, Mingo's draft status will be determined by how comfortable teams are with him mentally, as they must determine whether or not he can adapt to the NFL game while ironing out fundamental issues with pad level, footwork and pass rushing repertoire.”
Mingo’s athleticism and flashes of elite pass rushing upside have been on display this year as a rookie, but it’s clear that he’s still learning as he goes in the NFL. However, his motor, lateral quickness and ability to release in space has allowed him to have sporadic success this season, including against the Packers last week.
Matched-up mostly with fellow rookie (and arguably the best offensive lineman so far from the 2013 NFL Draft) David Bakhtiari for a majority of his snaps, Mingo was unable to finish sacks in the backfield, mostly thanks to Bakhtiari’s recovery when he did lose initially to Mingo as well as the added protection the Packers shifted toward Mingo on obvious passing downs.
As a pass rusher, Mingo showcased his ability to be disruptive with lateral quickness and active hands. In the play below, you’ll see Mingo (#51), drive his blocker in the backfield (and eventually force a double team) simply by transitioning his strength and quickness from his lower half all through his body to generate force and collapse the pocket. While he’s unable to finish the sack himself (though a teammate should have done the deed for him), Mingo showed his ability to make an impact on the defense by both forcing the quarterback into a poor throw as well as setting him his less-talented teammates to make a play on the quarterback.
Pass rushing was the primary reason the Browns selected Mingo at number six overall, but he’ll need to continue to develop against the run before he can emerge as one of the best outside linebackers in the NFL. He plays away from his body well as a tackler, and made multiple plays in space as he came down the line to finish tackles away from his area. However, he tends to try to over-use his hands to get separation to fill holes in running plays, allowing for more polished and controlled blockers to lock him up and use his leverage against him.
As the play below shows, Mingo was trying to “outwork” his blocker, when he should have simply collapsed inside, worked to pinch the blocker down and force the running back into a much smaller hole to keep him from bouncing outside and picking up a big chunk of yards.
Our scouting report wasn’t all that glowing for Barkevious Mingo relative to where he was drafted, as his raw skill set, need for ample time and development, and concerns over whether he’d ever reach his potential made him more of a mid-late first round prospect in our eyes. However, he’s proving this year, including against Green Bay, that he’s able to still be an NFL starter based mostly off of natural ability.
If that’s the case, the Browns, at worst, got themselves a long time starter who can collapse the pocket on 3rd downs and be an adequate weakside linebacker. And at best, they are beginning to already seen positive rewards on a player they are projecting to hit his peak at least a few years down the road.
Obviously he has a long way to go. But Mingo is already making an impact on the Browns defense, and the future seems bright for the rookie rusher.