Barkevious Mingo had what I consider to be a decent game vs. the Bengals this past Sunday. But let's remember this was his first NFL start and so there were opportunities to get better. In fact Wednesday morning Cleveland Browns Defensive Coordinator, Ray Horton stressed in his press conference that he wouldn't use the word "well" to describe how Mingo played on Sunday. He made it clear that Mingo played like a rookie and that they will work to fix the mistakes and get better but that he was pleased with the athletic parts of his game. He also added this:
You're playing some young guys, and I think, I hope, as he gets better, more comfortable, you'll see the defense really start to take off because we can do so many things with him. I’m very pleased with athletically what he did on the field, and we're trying to eliminate his rookie mistakes. But we also understand it was his first start in the NFL and he missed three of the four preseason games. So he's a work in progress, and I think he'll be a good barometer of our defense. How he improves, we'll improve.
As many of you may know, Mingo was thrust into that role because of a knee injury to Jabaal Sheard sustained the week prior vs. the Vikings. That means that Mingo was asked to be more than just a situational pass rusher vs. the Bengals. He was asked to perform many of the duties required in coach Horton's defensive system. This was great learning experience and provided Mingo vital playing time, which is valuable. In fact, he played in all 68 snaps ( every defensive snap in the game ) which coincidentally also gave him more opportunities to make mistakes in phases of the game that he hadn't been asked to execute yet. So, while he wasn't consistent, he did show the ability to make plays in situations where it mattered by getting his hands on 2 passes, tallying 1 sack, and 1 tackle for loss on a botched snap in the 4th quarter.
According to PFF, Mingo had a poor game. Take a look at the picture below and click on it to enlarge. The first thing that jumps off the page to me, aside from the bright red bar, is that Mingo has a sack in each of his first 3 games in the NFL. Remember, he missed the first week vs. Miami due to a bruised lung.
I will highlight several plays that I thought were good plays for Mingo, plays that I thought showed his athletic ability; awareness of the game; and tackling. I will also show one specific instance that reflects his propensity to be absorbed at the line of scrimmage. Mingo needs to continue to develop his bull rush and I believe that with time it should all start to come together.
OK. Let's jump into the film room!
The Browns are lined up in a 3-4-4 defense and appear to be playing man underneath and a zone over the top with the safeties. The Bengals have come out in what I believe is 10 personnel, 4 WR, 1 RB and Andy Dalton in the shotgun.
I have illustrated what the front 4 will be doing on this play. Mingo and Rubin are rushing the edges, or C gaps, and Bryant ends up crossing back into the opposite A gap while Kitchen tries to push across into the other A gap.
Here you can see Mingo as he attempts to get outside and around the LT. Dalton fakes the handoff to the RB.
The LT engages Mingo and pretty much slows down his rush and holds him in this spot. Meanwhile Dalton surveys the field and the RB looks to exit the backfield. Here, you can also clearly see Bryant and Kitchen in one on one situations. Mingo has been absorbed by the block.
Here you can see the ensuing pressure from Bryant on the inside, he has beat his man on the inside stunt and is beginning to get his arms up in the air to try to break up the expected pass. At this point Mingo is able to begin to push to create space and Dalton realizes the pressure from Bryant.
As Dalton feels that pressure from Bryant, he decides to step up to run and escape the pocket to his left. He is actually tripped by his LG as you can see from this screen shot. The LG's leg is up in the air and Dalton's body is reacting to the unexpected contact in that awkward, I just got tripped, fashion.
Dalton hasn't been touched by a Browns player yet he's already falling forward on account of the trip. At this point Mingo has broken free from the block and has a sack delivered into his lap a la the stumbling Dalton less than a yard away.
Boom. Sacked. But a lucky one!
Great run disruption in backfield vs Gio Bernard
Here we see the Browns line up in a 2-4-5 in what appears to be man to man coverage with 2 safeties over the top. The Bengals are lined up in 11 personnel: 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB and Dalton in shotgun. This is a run play that Mingo is able to sniff out and disrupt before it really even has a chance of success.
Mingo bursts off the line, here you can see he's the deepest of any the defensive lineman. This is combination of the speed of Mingo but also the design of the play. The LT has used his hands initially at the POA and is in the process of pushing off with his right arm to release up the field to block the safety. Dalton is stepping out to hand the ball off.
Mingo meets the ball carrier in the backfield nearly at the same time Dalton hands the ball off, showcasing his tremendous speed and explosion.
Mingo goes to wrap up Bernard, yet Gio is able to pull an awesome little spin move to throw Mingo off his back. Essentially, Mingo misses the tackle for loss in the backfield, even though he's right on top of Bernard. Meanwhile, you can see the LT now near the second level in position to block our safety, Tashon Gipson.
Here Mingo is seen on the ground following the spin move and broken tackle by Bernard. Gio has subsequently lost his balance and needs to plant his hand in the dirt. This loss of balance and speed ( created by Mingo ) allows his teammates to adjust and make the play on the inside.
While Mingo wasn't able to wrap the ball carrier up in the backfield for a bigger loss, he was able to significantly impact the play by disrupting the timing of the play and the blocking and getting a hit on the RB in the backfield, allowing this teammates to assist and finish the tackle for a slight loss.
Stymied at point of attack
I am not pointing out personnel on either side of the ball here, simply pointing out something that I think many of us saw in Mingo's first NFL start - his speed pass rush was often thwarted at the point of attack when the OL was able to get his hands on Mingo and square up. This happened often and indicates that Mingo still needs to develop a more effective bull rush and get better with his hands.
Here you can see Mingo and DQwell crossing as Mingo attacks the C gap and Jackson crosses back inside in pursuit. Mingo is rushing the edge and appears to be getting double teamed at this point in time. However the deepest man is actually the RB coming out of the backfield to chip block Mingo as he exits towards the flat.
As soon as the LT gets his hands on Mingo, his speed rush is halted and he's "stuck" to the blocker.
Mingo is peeking out and around the blocker but at this point is still unable to disengage from the block of the LT. Mingo was not effective in pressuring the QB on this play or beating his blocker.
As Dalton delivers the pass you can still see Mingo engaged with the LT, with no space created and nowhere to go. He's been engulfed. Mingo found himself in this spot several times vs. the Bengals in his extended role as a starter.
Tipped Pass on 3rd and 7 from the Browns 13 yard line
Once again the Browns come out in a 2-4-5 defense. The Bengals are lined up in 12 personnel: 2 WR; 2 TE; 1 RB and Dalton in shotgun. This is a designed pass play. The Bengals have about 7 yards to go for a first down and 13 yards for a TD. The Browns will bring a 4 man rush and drop the rest back in coverage.
At this point, Mingo is not being lifted by the OL, in fact he is absorbing the initial block on his inside stunt, and as you will see, does a good enough job separating ( if only for a moment ) to get an untouched leap to knock the ball down.
This screen shot shows the exact same point in time as the previous one. You can see the Bengals flooding the strong side of the field with 3 receiving routes but the Browns appear to have good coverage on all routes at this point in time.
This appears to be a zone defense. The defense seems to be guarding space, not a specific man. The one DB has followed the WR into the flat but is also keeping an eye on the TE inside, while the other DB, #21 Chris Owens, has retreated to the goal line and is covering the underneath portion of the end zone route. This leaves the TE Eifert wide open near the first down marker in the soft spot of the zone.
Here's the tip!
Here you can see Mingo isn't actually being touched by the time he has jumped and got his hands and helmet on the ball to disrupt the pass to the wide open TE. Mingo's waist is a high as the LG who is blocking him - and he has located the ball and deflected it already. Impressive athletic ability.
Here's another shot of just after Mingo deflects the pass. Again, look at how high he is in the air. Ridiculous. At this point though, it looks at though the OL may have help thrust him higher into the air, but I can't be certain. If you asked me to bet, I'd say this leap was 100% Mingo.
Following the tip, Mingo is on the ground, but the TE has had to come back about 7 yards to make the catch off the deflection. This gave the defense enough time to recognize and adjust, closing in on the TE well before the first down marker.
Tipped Pass #2
Here you can see the Browns lined up in a 3-4-4. The Bengals have come out in 12 personnel: 2 WR, 2 TE, 1 RB and Dalton under center.
Mingo comes off the edge and immediately recognizes that the play is a designed quick pass by reading Dalton's eyes and his arm. Mingo quickly stops in the perceived passing lane in anticipation for the throw.
Here you can see, again, just how high up Mingo is jumping to deflect this pass. The man looks like his waist is at about head level.
The most impressive part of this play might be that he nearly intercepts this pass. You can see right here that Mingo has the ball nearly pinned to his chest!
As he attempts to quickly squeeze the pass, it flutters out of his grasp and down to the turf for an incomplete pass. You can see this eventually turning into an interception and even a pick 6. In my opinion it's only a matter of time before he's able to do this.
Great pursuit and tackle vs. Bengals rookie RB, Gio Bernard
Here you can see the Browns lined up in a 2-4-5 defense. The Bengals are in 11 personnel: 3 WR; 1 TE; 1 RB and Dalton back in shotgun. This appears to be a designed run play.
Off the snap, you can see Mingo engaged with the WR as the RB begins across the inside of the formation towards Dalton. Mingo doesn’t try to penetrate off the edge, instead he holds the edge and keeps his eye on the RB.
At this point, you can see that the ball has been pitched to the RB, Bernard. The pulling Center has pulled around to block Kruger Mingo has begun to disengage from tis block on the edge.
As illustrated here, Mingo has shed his blocker and kept his eyes on the RB the entire time and is in pursuit.
Here you can see Mingo’s recovery and edge contain angle. He seems to be in good position considering that Bernard is about to cut the ball back inside and up the middle of the field.
As you can see here, Bernard has cut back. Mingo has slightly over-pursued the play and has to pivot to switch angles. That being said, he does well with tremendous quickness and is able to breakdown and line up the tackle on Bernard.
Here you can see that breakdown and closing speed. Great form as well, going for the wrap up and not just the big hit.
Great pursuit, breakdown, wrap-up and tackle.