Pass-rush effort starts with attitude

Posted Dec 4, 2013

Senior Editor Vic Carucci says the Browns’ pass-rushers need to play with an edge to give the team its best hope for success against Tom Brady and the Patriots Sunday.

It isn’t this simple, but it has to start somewhere and Foxborough, Mass., site of Sunday’s game between the Browns and Patriots, is as good a place as any.

Rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo isn’t quite sure how he’ll react to meeting Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for the first time. After all, Brady has always been that larger-than-life figure that Mingo first “encountered” as a kid with a video-game controller in his hands.

“He’s the quarterback that I always liked to play with in Madden,” Mingo remembered.

But on Sunday, he’s the quarterback that Mingo and the rest of the Browns’ pass-rushers need to put on the ground, preferably with the ball in his hand, or force into errant throws.

“I’ll just go out there and get my job done,” Mingo said. “And at the end of the game, I can walk up and walk past him and, I guess, measure up and then shake his hand, maybe, and then leave.”

He paused. Then, with a smile, Mingo added: “After the win.”

Some might call that wishful thinking.

Others would say it’s an indication of an attitude that anyone with a direct or emotional tie with the Browns would prefer to see from every player on the team.

I’ll go with the latter.

Mingo needs to think that way. He and the rest of the Browns’ defense, and especially the rest of the front seven, must play with an edge in every game. However, it is particularly important to do so on Sunday.

Otherwise, Brady will tear it apart. He has a reserved spot at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton because of the many defenses he has shredded on the way to winning multiple Super Bowls and MVP awards in 14 NFL seasons. And there isn’t a single sign that he is ready to stop any time soon.

“He sits in the pocket and he slings the ball around … and just makes plays for his team … and wins,” Mingo said.

That about sums it up.

The two sacks the Browns have generated in their last three games (both against Jacksonville last Sunday) help summarize why the team is on a three-game losing streak after entering its bye with so much optimism stemming from a victory against the Ravens.

Mingo didn’t have one of them, although he did have a hit on Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne and knocked down a pass in one of his better performances in a long time. He leads the Browns with four sacks, but his last was at Kansas City on Oct. 27.

Mingo missed the season-opener against Miami with a bruised lung he suffered in the preseason. He rebounded strong with a sack in each of his first three NFL games.

Then, the sack pace came to a halt. Mingo suddenly discovered that having sustained success in the NFL is far more difficult than it is at LSU, from where the Browns made him the sixth overall pick of the draft in April.

Not that he was alone in his struggles. The front seven suddenly went from dominant to ordinary. It can’t afford to be ordinary. Not against the likes of Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and especially not against Brady.

The Browns made an effort to get back to that dominance in their preparation for the Jacksonville game, and it showed. But taking another step won’t be easy, and, in fact, just became a little bit harder with Wednesday’s news that defensive lineman Desmond Bryant has been lost for the season because of an irregular heartbeat.

“We just made an emphasis of getting back to rushing this past week,” Mingo said. “Putting a hand in the dirt, getting off the ball, getting in the backfield, and trying to make plays. That was the emphasis coming into this week and we just wanted to cause a little pressure as a group, as an outside-linebacker group.

“It’s all about going out and perfecting your move and you doing what you do best because there are going to be guys that off-set what you do best and you have to go to your backup. And you might have to go to another backup. So it’s all about learning when to use what.”

It’s also about playing with an edge.

As he gets ready to face the quarterback with whom he once only engaged while playing a video game, Mingo seems to have that part down.

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