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Browns defensive coaches amped up about Barkevious Mingo, Pierre Desir

During his Thursday appearance on Cleveland Browns Daily, defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil was put on the spot by co-host Matt Wilhelm.

"What two returning players are you most excited to see next season?" Wilhelm asked.

O'Neil's answers: outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo and cornerback Pierre Desir.

Not many know this, but Mingo's nagging shoulder injury happened on the second play of the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Instead of opting for season-ending surgery, Mingo played through the pain, often times restricting himself to using just one arm on the football field.

"It was so disappointing because I really liked how he was coming on through the preseason and all of training camp," O'Neil said. "I see him downstairs every day rehabbing his [tail] off."

Mingo still finished with 39 tackles, two sacks and four passes defended, while playing in a more coverage-suited role where he could contribute with the shoulder.

O'Neil's second response to the question may have been more intriguing listeners.

Pressed into the lineup last December because of injuries to Joe Haden and K'Waun Williams and Justin Gilbert's inconsistencies, Desir looked the part of a legitimate No. 2 NFL cornerback.

For a player making his first-ever start against stud Carolina wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, Desir was impressive, limiting the playmaker to just five catches and 47 yards. The fourth-round pick from Lindenwood University wasn't expected to see a snap last season, let alone play at a high level.

"I'm really excited about him because he has such a pro mentality," O'Neil said. "We called on him at the end of the season and he was kind of a guy that we were counting on redshirting the entire year.

"One of the big questions marks about Desir: Was he going to stick his face in the run game? And he showed that he would. And he did a (darn) good job at the line of scrimmage pressing some receivers."   

The Browns are not ruling out Desir challenging veteran Tramon Williams and Gilbert for playing time – and that competition will begin later this month when OTAs begin.

"Having a lot of good cornerbacks is a good problem to have," O'Neil said. "Our best three will play."

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