Up by seven points, 24-17, with five minutes to go in the third quarter, the Cleveland Browns had the Minnesota Vikings backed up in a third-and-12 situation from their own 47-yard line when rookie outside linebacker
Cut to the ground by a block, Mingo quickly popped up and registered a sack on Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder which forced a Minnesota punt.
“That was a great snap,” Browns outside linebackers coach Brian Baker said. “He got cut. He was up almost as soon as he was down, and fortunately, the quarterback was right there when he got up.
“That goes, number one, to coverage and that the quarterback didn’t have a chance to throw the ball. With that protection, the ball should’ve been out, but our coverage did a great job and didn’t give the quarterback an easy throw. Once he got back on his feet, the quarterback stepped to the cut side, which is typical. Mingo, and his ability to get up as quickly as he did, gave him a sack.”
Baker credited Mingo’s second career sack to his “functional explosiveness.”
“The way he functions on the field, and the quickness, the body angles he hits at, the length he uses, all those things give him a chance to function, hold a point, do things that would normally be attributed to bigger guys,” Baker said. “It gives him an opportunity to play big when he has to play big, but then, his athletic ability gives him a chance to play fast when that’s needed.”
Despite missing the final two weeks of the preseason, as well as the regular-season opener, a loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 8, because of a bruised lung suffered in an exhibition win over the Detroit Lions, Mingo registered four total tackles in the win over Minnesota, and five total stops -- including a pair of sacks -- over his first two NFL games.
“I think he’s really progressed, not just on the field, as a player from that standpoint,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “He’s a guy that has tremendous conditioning. I haven’t worried about that. He’s been getting more and more reps every week. A lot of that is just learning the defense and learning the techniques and getting better. He plays with real good leverage. That shows in his strength. He has some natural strength that he plays with that type of leverage. He’s really improved. All parts of his game have really improved.”
Mingo added, “I’m definitely feeling more comfortable. The game’s coming more naturally now. I’m getting a knack for the speed of the game while we’re playing. Whatever the coaches ask me to do, I’m down with it, 100 percent. I don’t know the role yet, but whatever it is, I’ll be ready for it.”
In Baker’s opinion, it is Mingo’s ability to learn in the classroom and apply those lessons on the football field, combined with his athletic ability that will allow him to be an effective outside linebacker, both as an edge pass-rusher or run-stopper setting the point at the line of scrimmage.
“He’s very intelligent, first and foremost, because that sets up everything else,” Baker said. “That’s why he’s been able to pick things up as quickly as he has. Normally, he’s a one-mistake guy. If he makes a mistake, you normally don’t get a repeat on it. He understands football.
“He’s got a lot of burst, a lot of snap coming out of his body, and that gives him a chance to play bigger, which is a good thing. It’s hard to play at the line of scrimmage as a rookie, and I think, every snap, every game, every different situation, he’s going to be able to benefit from it because of his football intelligence. Signs are pointing to him being able to use his ability and be an impact player in this league.”