Browns linebacker Barkevious Mingo is banking on bigger being better after a rookie year that started fast and then sort of fizzled.
He’s been bulking up this offseason, ready to fit in with the faster and stronger of the NFL.
As the sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft, Mingo made an instant impact for the Browns, flying all over the field and registering a sack in each of his first three games. But just as quickly, he disappeared from the stat sheet, recording only two more sacks the rest of the season.
Mingo now weighs in the upper 230s.
“Last year, I learned a lot of lessons - stuff that you can’t draw on the board,” Mingo said Sunday. “I feel like I’m using that this year to help me be a better player.”
It’s not just overcoming the stigma of being undersized. With a new coaching staff in place, Mingo is also adapting to new responsibilities in a revamped defense.
“He’s out in space, much more involved in coverage,” coach Mike Pettine said. “We’ll still take advantage of his pass rush ability. As far as a true radical position change, it’s right up there with him.”
That’s just fine with Mingo, who had an interception and tipped pass in the first day of practice Saturday. And despite packing on the weight, he still impressed everybody with how fast he ran through the team’s conditioning tests on Friday.
“I guess I’ll be asked to do a little more in coverage,” Mingo said. “I feel comfortable doing that.”
That attitude, and the willingness to help the team however he can, has made a good first impression on the coaching staff, but the work Mingo’s put in hasn’t been lost on his teammates, either.
“He doesn’t have that first-round chip on his shoulder where he thinks everything should be given to him,” said safety Donte Whitner, who is entering his ninth year in the league. “He’s a very coachable guy and the coaches are excited about the things that he can do. We’ve just got to get him to Taco Bell after training camp practice to get a couple of pounds on him.”
A lot has certainly been asked of Mingo this offseason, but as far as Pettine is concerned, he’s been up to the task for everything.
“I just think his preparation, his willingness, talking to him about getting his weight up a little bit - it’s not an easy transition for him,” Pettine said.
It might not be the easiest of transitions, but it helps that Mingo has been given a clean slate with new defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil.