During a closed OTA practice session in the spring, Barkevious Mingo dropped five interceptions in one practice. Five.
Defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil suggested his outside linebacker put in some extra work on the jug machines. Mingo, who said he likes how relatable his young coaches are, obliged.
On Saturday, Mingo picked off a pass. He made the right read and jumped the route.
"A lot of the guys would've hound me if I would've dropped it," said Mingo, with a wide smile.
The improvement in guarding tight ends and even wide receivers must continue for Mingo. Coach Mike Pettine says his role in this defense is not exactly an interchangeable one.
"Two years ago he was a defensive end who had his hand down all the time," Pettine said. "His world was completely different for what we are asking from him now. He's out in space. Much more involved in coverage. We'll still take advantage of his pass rush ability. As far as a true radical position change, it's right up there."
Mingo's unique frame has much to do with his hybrid role in the Browns defense. It was confirmed that the LSU alum is the most he's ever weight. Even with the increase in his size, Pettine was floored by how well Mingo ran in Friday's conditioning test. The coach joked his linebacker could've passed the test running with the defensive backs; his endurance and speed were that impressive.
Mingo came in like hurricane in 2013, posting sacks in his first three games. His production and reps faded as the season wore on. His rookie experience, both the ups and downs, might be essential to how much growth Mingo shows in 2014.
"Last year I learned a lot of lessons, stuff that you can't draw on the board," said Mingo. "I feel like I've been using that this year. It'll help me be a better player in addition to the playbook.
"[I learned] just how to play the game of football. A lot of guys say it. I really can't explain it, other than that. You really learn a lot when you go through it."