Head Coach Mike Pettine spoke with the media on Wednesday and here's a full transcript by Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. He fielded some questions on the outside linebackers, especially second-year player Barkevious Mingo. Ulrich quotes Pettine:
On if LB Barkevious Mingo is healthy and what he needs to see from him as far as production on Sunday: "We never put benchmarks on what production we need to see. Take the plays that are there for you. You run the danger of trying to make plays that aren’t yours to make or coming out of structure to have production. I can’t speak for him saying that he (feels) 100-percent with it. We haven’t had him in a lot of situations where he’s had an opportunity to get sacks. We’ve used (LB Jabaal) Sheard and (LB Paul) Kruger more in passing situations. Again, it falls back to not reading too much into statistics and a guy filling the grade sheet with plusses. That’s what’s most important to us. There are times where a guy won’t necessarily have production, but they’ll cause production. That comes with doing your job. That’s a big emphasis for us this week. Our mantra in all phases is do your job and good things will happen. That’s one thing – not just with Mingo, but with everybody else – that we’re emphasizing."
On his reasoning for using the other two guys to rush the passer more: "I like him better in coverage, and it’s good to roll those guys through. I always like having guys coming off the bench, at least one guy on third down – fresh legs to rush the passer. I just think that helps you, especially late in the game when you need the guys to be fresh."
On Mingo being drafted here as purely a pass rusher and if he sees him differently: "I see him as having the ability to do both. We evaluated him over the other two in his drop ability. It’s close with Mingo probably being the best, Kruger second and Jabaal third as far as ability to drop. The Sam linebacker is a very important position for us from a coverage standpoint. That’s just the way we decided to proceed with that rotation."
I noted the OLB's pass rush reps and effectiveness in my discussion of the Browns Week 1 pass rush:
Rushes PR Score Composite
Sheard 16 50.0% 75.0% Kruger 15 40.0% 66.7% Mingo 14 21.4% 57.1%
Here we can plainly see that Mingo got nearly the same amount of attempts to rush the passer as Jabaal Sheard and Paul Kruger, but he got pressure at a much lower rate (PR Score) and the team fared a bit worse when he was was given a rush assignment (Composite) than when Sheard or Kruger were.
Mingo missed Week 2 but was back in action against the Ravens. Here's how the OLB's fared in that contest:
Rushes PR Score Composite
Kruger 15 53.3% 86.7% Sheard 14 50.0% 85.7% Mingo 5 20.0% 80.0%
We can plainly see what Mike Pettine was talking about: Mingo got a lot fewer reps rushing the passer than Kruger or Sheard. Why is that?
Kruger 15 1 Sheard 14 2 Mingo 5 8
Well, apparently the coach isn't just blowing smoke to take the heat off his player: Mingo got more action in coverage than as a pass rusher and considerably more than his fellow outside linebackers. One could look at this as Mingo being a clearly worse pass rusher than Kruger or Sheard. The differences in their pass rush effectiveness scores support this claim.
There is, however, another important thing to note: the difference in snap counts versus Baltimore. Paul Kruger played 47 snaps. Jabaal Sheard played 37. Barkevious Mingo played 45. Is Mingo just a liability that they keep trotting out there until maybe, hopefully the light comes on and he contributes? No, I don't think so at all. I think he's seeing a healthy load of snaps because he's already contributing:
Look at that range in coverage. Mingo is able to bump the tight end at the line and then use his speed to catch up to the back in the flat and track him down the sideline. Can Kruger or Sheard do anything close to that? Mingo has some stiffness -- and it shows up in his zone coverage -- but his tremendous quickness and speed make him quite an asset in man-to-man coverage while also forcing the offensive line to account for him in their protection scheme in case he comes on a pass rush.
Another thing to make note of, as Rotoworld was quick to point out in response to questions regarding Mingo's contributions, is that so far this season Barkevious Mingo has graded out in the top five in run defense among 3-4 outside linebackers according to Pro Football Focus. Meanwhile, Kruger and Sheard have both had a handful of plays where they lost contain on the edge or failed to break down and make tackles in space. Mingo's athleticism may be even more valuable in run defense than in coverage.
Personally, I'm not worried about KeKe Mingo. Is he a dynamic pass rusher? No, he is not. Is he the kind of versatile player that could help us shore up our run defense and pass coverage? Signs show that he may very well be.