Just how good of a rookie season did Cleveland Browns outside linebacker
Despite missing a month of action with a bruised lung suffered in a 24-6 preseason victory over the Detroit Lions at FirstEnergy Stadium on Aug. 15, Mingo registered five sacks in 15 games this season.
When compared to the rookie seasons of the five players who registered the most sacks in the NFL this year, Mingo, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, had the most productive first year.
Indianapolis outside linebacker Robert Mathis registered 20 solo tackles, 3.5 sacks and one pass breakup in 2003, while St. Louis defensive end Robert Quinn totaled 20 solo stops, five sacks and defended two passes in 2011.
As a rookie, Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy totaled 24 tackles, one pass breakup and three sacks in 2010, while Buffalo defensive end Mario Williams collected 35 tackles, three passes defended and 4.5 sacks with the Houston Texans in 2006. New Orleans defensive end Cameron Jordan registered only one sack and 18 solo tackles in his first professional season two years ago.
Even though he played barely half of the defense’s total snaps, Mingo registered 29 solo stops and five sacks with one pass breakup.
“Just his raw ability and explosive athletic ability and talent gives him an edge,” said former NFL defensive back and current CBS football analyst Solomon Wilcots. “He hit a wall, as all rookies do, because once pro teams figure out, ‘Okay, this is what you do best,’ they’re going to take that away.
“What they tried to do is make him be more of a complete football player, make him play the run, make him do some things differently. I think he did a good job. I think he worked his way through some tough, difficult moments and get a whole season under his belt.”
On a third of his snaps, Mingo was dropping into pass coverage. However, he still managed to finish second on the team overall and third among all NFL rookies in sacks despite switching from a 4-3 defensive end at Louisiana State University to a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL.
“He’s long, got long arms, and that’s key to being able to get extension on offensive linemen, be able extend the arms, release and get off blocks,” Wilcots said. “He’s got the ability to turn the corner with great speed and quickness, great body lean in terms of playing the pass and rushing the quarterback.
“The key is learning how to keep the leverage on the ball when he’s playing against the run. The run defense is part of where he needs to get better and I think he did get better as the season went on.”
Having watched the productivity Mingo was able to produce as a rookie in the NFL, Wilcots believes the Browns’ outside linebacker has a bright future.
“The one thing that was natural was rushing the passer,” Wilcots said. “I thought he was very natural in dropping into pass coverage as well. I thought he was better than maybe what I anticipated.
“He’s a smart kid and he’s got a tremendously high football IQ, so you can ask him to do a number of different things and his skill set will allow him to do a number of different things. His football IQ will also allow him to do a number of things that are required by an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.”