Locker Room Report: Barkevious Mingo on his shifting role
- Ask defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil about Barkevious Mingo's season so far and you'll hear the words like "happy, great and getting the job done." Mingo's early season perseverance through a nagging shoulder injury is something other players around the league might've not fought through. Mingo willed himself to be on the field against Baltimore. It told O'Neil everything he needed to know about the second-year linebacker.
- "He's been a warrior fighting through it and giving us everything that he has out there," said O'Neil. "Having the week off to be able to rest it and get that thing back to almost 100-percent where he feels strong to do what we're asking him to do I think will be big for him this week."
- The hot topic inside the walls of Berea on Thursday was Mingo's role as a SAM (outside) linebacker in the Browns' defense. The SAM linebacker generally drops more in coverage, an area Cleveland envisions their lengthy 6-foot-4 linebacker excelling more in. Of Mingo's 47 snaps against the Ravens, 26 percent of those were solely the LSU alum covering a tight end, running back or even used as a decoy in zone coverage. Mingo will still get reps rushing the passer when spelling Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard, but the Browns think it's a wise move to use him as a disruptive piece in pass coverage.
- This is a slight shift in what local media members expected from Mingo. In college, he was an attacking pass rusher which he did early last season with three sacks in his first three games. In last season's rookie campaign, Mingo struggled in space marking potential receivers. He grew during the offseason as the Browns recognized his development as a cover linebacker and decided it would be beneficial to let Mingo roam and make more plays in the secondary.
- "I'm doing my part to help the team win," said Mingo at his locker on Thursday. "If it's holding a tight end, if it's going and sacking quarterbacks – I'm going to do what they ask me to do. If you are doing something well, [the coaches] want to highlight it."
- "He's a guy who's obviously very versatile, so we can ask him to do more than what we ask of some of those other guys," said O'Neil.
*Browns preaching 'team defense' to help solve some of the unit's problems *
- O'Neil put his thumb on the Browns' defensive woes to begin 2014. When an offense has made an explosive play on Cleveland, usually one or more players on the defense "break the structure" of the play call. It can be as simple as a defensive end charging the wrong gap, or it could be a linebacker over-pursuing a ball carrier and running too far up the field. One wrong move can lead to leaks in the system, especially when defending the run. Making a big play should not be the goal of every single player, and at times to begin this season, it was. This team defense approach was stressed to the unit before the bye week and now has been implemented in practice.
- In the first three games, the Browns are tied for the league lead in most 20-yard runs allowed (six) and 12th in number of 20-yard completions allowed with 13.
- "Great defenses aren't great because they have a bunch of great individual players – they play great together and everybody gets their job done," said O'Neil. "I think that the guys just have to buy into playing team defense. We've got to do a better job coaching, and if we do that, we'll be much more effective against the run."
- "Team defense means everyone is doing their job," said Phil Taylor. "Don't try and do the next man's job. You do your job, your assignment for that play and everything will be alright.
Joel Bitonio passing his test with flying colors
- Cleveland's brightest spot nobody talks about? It's easily Joel Bitonio. It would be tough to find another rookie around the NFL whose adjusted to professional football so seamlessly. ProFootballFocus.com ranks Bitonio as the sixth best guard in the league, and that's coming against well-respected defensive fronts in Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Baltimore.
- It's been noted, but worth pointing out again, Bitonio played mostly left and right tackle during his college career at Nevada. For him to be able to jump right in at a new position, and not only not miss a beat, but thrive, is a reason why the Browns' offense is clicking.
- "Sometimes – depending on what they did in college – that can be a very difficult transition," said coach Mike Pettine about Bitonio. "But his game was NFL ready. I think it also helps him from the mental standpoint to be surrounded by Joe [Thomas] on one side and Alex [Mack] on the other."
- "I think being athletic in this scheme helps," said Bitonio, who grew up as a basketball star in California. "Playing next to Joe and Alex obviously helps a little bit. I think another thing is just playing hard, playing to the whistle. Every time I go out there with the mindset that I don't want my guy to make the tackle. No matter what. So I try and do everything in my power to stop the guy."
- "We all had very high expectations for him," said offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. "Spent a second-round pick on him expecting him to come in and be a starter for us right away, and he's lived up to it."
- Limited participants: Ben Tate (knee) and Desmond Bryant (glute/wrist).
- Full participants: Buster Skrine (thumb), Marlon Moore (illness), Barkevious Mingo (shoulder), Jordan Cameron (shoulder).
- Also, Titans quarterback Jake Locker was a full participant (wrist). Starting cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson (concussion) did not practice.