Tag Archives: Barkevious Mingo


I had a chance to catch up with Nate Ulrich who covers the Browns for the Akron Beacon Journal and we took an in depth look at the Cleveland Browns from training camp through the first three games of the 2014 season.



In years past this was an easy pick as the Steelers defense dominated because of its linebackers in Dick Lebeau’s “Blitzburgh” scheme. The pressure Pittsburgh’s LB’s would put on opposing quarterbacks allowed Troy Polamalu to do whatever he wanted and Ike Taylor was able to cover the opposition’s top wide out.

That is not the case anymore.

The Steelers linebackers are average at best, and Polamalu and Taylor are older and slower. That is not a good combination for the “Black and Gold”.

How bad are the Steelers linebackers? They drafted one in the first round in Ryan Shazier, and he’s starting on the inside! Mike Tomlin doesn’t like to start rookies on defense, or anywhere. That should tell you something.  Last year’s first round pick, another linebacker in Jarvis Jones, underperformed based on the front office’s expectations and the other two starters, Jason Worilds and Lawrence Timmons have also been disappointments, even though Worilds led the team in sacks last year with 8. They are a downgrade from Steeler linebackers of the past.

Pittsburgh brought in Mike Mitchell to replace the ancient Ryan Clark at safety and that is an upgrade. However, without pressure and creating havoc in the backfield from the Steelers linebackers, Polamalu, Mitchell, Taylor and fellow starting corner Cortez Allen can be exposed by good passing attacks.

The Browns feel they’ve upgraded the middle of their linebacking core with the addition of veteran Karlos Dansby. He’s more of a play-maker than D’Qwell Jackson was, but doesn’t have many years left.

Barkevious Mingo 1

2013 First Round Pick Barkevious Mingo

Last year’s number #1 pick Barkevious Mingo will be called upon to sack the quarterback. That’s why he was drafted. He’s very suspect against the run, so he has to make up for that with double-digit sacks this year.

Last year’s biggest disappointment was free agent linebacker Paul Kruger. He did not provide the pass rush that the Browns were expecting and needs to step his game up a lot or he’ll lose playing time to another guy that Jim O’Neil is hoping will get after the quarterback, Jabaal Sheard. The last starter right now is Craig Robertson on the inside, but for how long? He’s OK, but rookie third round pick Christian Kirksey was impressive in camp, in the preseason and is a better cover guy than Robertson, so don’t be surprised if the rookie from Iowa leap frogs Robertson and eventually becomes the starter.

Joe Haden is the best player on the Browns defense. When he’s at his best he can take away a quarter of the field and cover the opponent’s top receiver. It’s the other corner position the Browns were worried about so they passed on a much needed wide receiver at #4 and then at #8 in the draft, and selected defensive back Justin Gilbert to plug in opposite Haden. This has the potential to be an outstanding tandem even though Gilbert struggled at times in the preseason.  The Browns believe he has the size, speed and instincts to be a top flight cover corner. This also moves Buster Skrine inside to cover the slot guys and it will benefit the team immensely, as Skrine was often picked on last year by opposing quarterbacks on the outside and beaten badly or flagged for a penalty.

The strong safety position will be led by hard hitting veteran Donte Whitner. He was brought here in free agency to replace T.J. Ward because of his experience and leadership, as well as delivering the big hit to make receivers think twice about coming into his area. The Browns also feel Whitner is a good compliment to free safety Tashaun Gipson who led the team with 5 interceptions last year.

The Steelers front office feels the linebacking core will take major steps forward this year with Shazier using his speed to make tackles and Jones his pass rush ability to sack the quarterback, but I’m not as sold on this group, especially when you compare it to what they’ve had in the past.  Also the secondary has been a major problem for the Steelers for a number of years now and it’s just getting older. Yes the Steelers are using the same scheme, but do they have the players to make it work? Add in that Joe Haden is the best defensive player either of these two teams have, and the Browns have upgraded their talent and now have some depth, while it’s not a huge edge, I give the Browns linebackers and secondary the slight nod over the Steelers.



As the Browns head into their second preseason game against the Redskins, there are four big questions marks that I’m hoping to get answers to on Monday night in Washington. Here’s what they are…….

Johnny Manziel In Game Huddle


The most important thing about Saturday night’s game is obviously the play of the quarterbacks. How does Brian Hoyer’s body hold up for the time he is in there? Is he indeed 100% healthy? Can he put points on the board? How does Johnny Manziel handle the speed of the NFL game even if it is against the second team? Can he command the huddle and call the right plays? How much does Johnny run the football and can he take a hit or two from guys that are bigger, stronger, faster than the ones he played against in college?Johnny Manziel Smiling at NFL Draft

These are all questions that hopefully the Browns will get answers to one way or another. It doesn’t seem right to think this way, but you almost hope one of the two guys falls flat on his face or bombs, so it will help make the decision easier and clearer. On the other hand, if both guys do well, then you’ve strengthened the QB position and it’s great in this league to have depth.

Other positions I’ll be watching closely:

WR – Who steps up and makes plays besides Josh Gordon? Will it be the veterans Miles Austin or Nate Burleson? Will Andrew Hawkins show why the Browns paid him a decent amount of money in free agency to come to Cleveland? Does somebody come out of know where and make a name for himself and get the coaches attention? Besides quarterback, the receiver position is my biggest concern with this football team.

RB – Ben Tate was a nice free agent pick up in the off season by Ray Farmer, especially for the price, but how does he handle being the feature back now and can he stay healthy? Also rookie Terrance West has been getting rave reviews for what he’s done in training camp, will that translate to the football field against an opponent that isn’t wearing the same colored jersey you do?Barkevious Mingo 1

LB – Barkevious Mingo has had a great camp, but can he produce the same results on the field in an actual game? How much of an impact will the self-proclaimed best linebacker in the NFL, Karlos Dansby really make? Can Paul Kruger bounce back from being a big name free agent bust from last season and start earning his money and making plays on the field this year?

CB – Not sure of the injury situation with rookie #1 pick Justin Gilbert and whether or not he’ll play, but from the day he was drafted I expected him to be the starter opposite Joe Harden from day 1. He needs to be able to beat out Buster Skrine for this defense to be a better defense.Manziel-Gilbert-Farmer-Pettine Jersey Photo

HC – How will first time ever head coach Mike Pettine do in his first game? Is the game plan good? How does he handle in game situations from time outs, to challenges to halftime adjustments?

These are all things I will be watching closely in the Browns first and all of their pre-season games, as they get ready for their regular season opener on September 7th at Pittsburgh.


This is of course subject to change based on injury, practice and game performance, but this is how I see the 2014 Cleveland Browns lining up on Sunday, September 7th at Pittsburgh.

I’ve said it all along and I’m sticking to it, I believe it would be smart to start Brian Hoyer at quarterback for the first three games of the season if healthy, and see how he does. If he plays well and you’re winning you stick with him. If he struggles, or the offense struggles and you’re 1-2, or 0-3 after playing Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Baltimore then use the bye week in week #4, to reevaluate the QB position and decide if it’s time for Johnny Manziel to be your starter in game four at Tennessee.Johnny Manziel Browns SI Cover Photo

On defense I know that the Browns spent a lot of money in free agency on outside linebacker Paul Kruger last year, but he was a big disappointment. I believe there’s a great chance for second year linebacker and last year’s first round pick Barkevious Mingo to step up in camp and earn a starting job there. I also believe that this year’s first round pick, Justin Gilbert will beat out Buster Skrine for the right corner back spot and start from day one.

Here are my projected starters as of (7-26-14) for the Cleveland Browns:


QB- Brian Hoyer

RB- Ben Tate

WR- Andrew Hawkins

WR- Miles Austin

WR- Nate Burleson

TE- Jordan Cameron

LT- Joe Thomas,

LG- Joel Bitonio

C – Alex Mack

RG- John Greco

RT- Mitchell Schwartz



LDE- Ahtyba Rubin

NT- Phil Taylor

RDE- Desmond Bryant

LOLB- Barkevious Mingo

LILB- Craig Robertson

RILB- Karlos Dansby

ROLB- Jabaal Sheard

LCB- Joe Haden

SS- Donte Whitner

FS- Tashaun Gibson

RCB- Justin Gilbert


Here is the transcript of Browns head coach Mike Pettine’s press conference with the media following yesterday’s final day of mini-camp. The first year head coach gave his thoughts on how camp went, what they achieved, who the number #1 quarterback on the team’s depth chart is and more.

On what he said to the team as it ended mini-camp:

“We feel we’ve built a good foundation. I went over in the meeting about some of the numbers that occurred in the weight room, some of the things we were able to do there; just the amount of inventory, the volume that we put in – offense, defense and special teams – spoke to that. We built a good foundation, but the key thing for a mature team is to take this break and keep on a rise. We can’t afford to take a step back and really be back at the beginning when we get to training camp. It was a challenge for the guys to stay in shape. Their playbooks will be available to them throughout this break, as well. We should be able to get ahead mentally for training camp, as well.”

Mike Pettine

On if Browns QB Brian Hoyer is the starting quarterback going into training camp:


On how close Browns QB Johnny Manziel is on the depth chart:

“It’s been hard to evaluate because. Brian hasn’t been able to take the actual 11-on-11 reps, but when we put the actual depth chart together, Brian will be No. 1.”

On what he’s learned during minicamp:

“That they know how to work, and that this is a smart group. I think we’ve handled some pretty complex stuff that we’ve thrown at them. That’s our job as coaches to kind of keep throwing at them and see what is our cumulative intelligence. I thought we’ve done a good job of handling that stuff. There are some guys that are better than others, but I think for the most part, they’ve impressed us as a staff with their work ethic and their ability to handle the volume of information.”


On if Hoyer has extended or maintained his lead as starting quarterback:

“It’s hard because we haven’t really been in the mode of thinking, ‘OK, he’s this far ahead today. How much was the gap closed?’ They’re still learning the basics of the offense. The rookies haven’t been here very long. They’re playing catch-up from a playbook standpoint.  At this point, we really weren’t keeping score. I think we’ll be much more apt to do that once we get to training camp.”


On if the rookies will remain at the facility after the minicamp ends:

“Yeah, they’re here next week. Then, the NFL rookie symposium – which I think is split between AFC and NFC for a series of days, and that’s close by; I think part of it might actually be here, if I’m not mistaken – is the week after.”


On if it is a nervous time when Manziel is dismissed before training camp:

“I think it’s nervous anytime your entire team is dismissed. As a coach, you hear your phone ring and you kind of look at it with one eye, hoping it’s not an issue coming up. We talked to them about it, that we wanted to make sure they handle themselves well. The advice, like I said before, was learn the system, stay in shape and stay out of trouble.”


On how the reps will be divided between Hoyer and Manziel in training camp:

“I don’t know how even we’ll get it, but there will definitely be times when Johnny will be with the ones. It would be hard to evaluate if we didn’t do that. If there wasn’t a competition, then it would be strictly ones, twos. We have not met to go over that. (Browns offensive coordinator) Kyle (Shanahan), (Browns quarterbacks coach) Dowell (Loggains) and I are going to all think of it over the summer, and as we get closer, at some point, probably get together and figure out how we want to do it.”


On if Manziel will play against first-team defenses during the preseason:

“I can’t answer that. I don’t know, but if a guy has a chance to be a starter I would think that you’d want to expose him to a starting defense if he was going to be the guy opening day.”


On what Manziel can do before training camp to close the gap, considering Hoyer’s position:

“I don’t think he should concern himself so much with where Brian is but where he is. I think if he gets in his – it’s hard to say get into his playbook because it’s get into his iPad, which is odd to say (laughter). He’s going to have plenty of tape to study, his own work, what the rest of the offense has done, even in the time before he got here, the work that we were able to do on the field, start to study some opponent tape. He’ll have a volume of Redskins tape, which will be a lot of the similar terminology, the formations, the plays. I think the more he just familiarizes himself with that, the better off he’ll be.”


On if studying the playbook will help him make reads faster:

“Some, but it’s still so early for him at this point.”


On if Hoyer’s lead in the quarterback competition is insurmountable for Manziel to catch up, in reference to Browns General Manager Ray Farmer’s statement weeks ago:

“No, I think when Ray made the comment he talked about the lead being, just because of the circumstances because Brian had been here for those whatever it was, seven, eight weeks before the draft even started. That was essentially a head start. I don’t think it’s insurmountable. I think that Brian is securely ahead of him right now, but we will compete and we will decide. The issue for us as a staff will be finding the right time to name the starter. If you wait too late, then nobody’s ready for the opener; if you do it too soon, then it wasn’t a true competition. That will be part of our discussions as well, as far as, ‘OK, here’s the plan, here’s the date that we’re going to go ahead and name it.”


On expecting to hear a decision soon from the NFL on Browns WR Josh Gordon’s status:

“I think that’s reasonable to say. We haven’t been given a date. I think, in fairness to us, the league would let us know. There’s no information as far as what the plans are to release it, but I think we’re all comfortable thinking that we should know before training camp starts.”


On how Browns LB Jabaal Sheard will be used, and if the identity of the defense will be to go after the quarterback with the pass rush:

“We’ve always wanted to be known as an attack-style defense. I think the more you can shorten the amount of time that the quarterback has to process – if you want to make him react quicker or at least make him think he has to react quicker – then I think that’s going to be in the defense’s favor. We’ve studied it. We’ve put a stopwatch on when the ball has come out versus us and versus other teams, and there’s a marked difference. It’s coming out quicker when teams play us. You don’t have to cover as long, that’s the other benefit of it. In respect to his position, right now he’s penciled in as one of our rush linebackers, which is almost more of a drop-end than a rush linebacker. He will be dropping less and going more at the quarterback.”


On if Browns LB Barkevious Mingo will drop more than Sheard:

“Yeah, that’s fair to say at this point.”


On if the Browns were limiting RB Ben Tate’s reps through minicamp:

“He was a little nicked up, but he took the reps that he could.”


On which players jumped out at him during minicamp, despite not practicing with pads:

“There was a bunch of them. I think we talked about it when I called the team up, that we’re getting to know them and they’re getting to know us. There are some guys that were impressive, but you can’t fall into that trap. I’m glad you prefaced the question the way you did because when it’s not in pads, sometimes fall in love with a guy or two that looks great in shorts and helmets, and then the pads go on. There are some guys that it’s the exact opposite, that thrive much more when there’s a lot more physicality involved.”


On what gives him confidence that he can go up against experienced coaches as a first-year head coach:

“We talked about it in the meeting today with the players because it’s the same is true for them as it is for us: you get confidence through preparation. I truly trust in our staff that our team is going to be prepared, that the players themselves will be prepared and that’s how you’re confident. I’ve been in this league for 12 years now. I’ve seen a lot of games won and a lot of games lost. I can’t really concern myself with who’s on the other sideline. It’s what we’re doing and the decisions that we make are the most important.”


On how the defense will be successful:

“What we’ve been able to do is formulate a style where we’re going to pressure, but we like to use the phrase that, it’s going to be more calculated than reckless. We’re not going to blitz just to blitz. There are going to be times where it’s going to look like a blitz but it really isn’t. We’re going to blitz a defensive back, but he’s only the fourth rusher so we get the best of both worlds. We have a chance to get a free runner or to keep a running back in or to cause a hot throw and still have seven in coverage behind it. I’d like to think that the way that we move around and disguise and we mix up the blitzes with the non-pressures that it gives us the best of both worlds that we don’t end in a situation where it’s reckless, where we have some great plays and then we turn around and give up a long one.”


On Browns DB Leon McFadden and Browns DL Armonty Bryant:

“Leon’s part of the corner competition and that was – I’ve already mentioned this – one of the rooms where we felt that we’ve created a lot of healthy competition. Leon will be part of that. He’s done some good things this spring. Armonty missed some time early, but we were able to get him back the last few weeks. He’s a guy that we’re looking forward to getting out there probably more likely in nickel pass rush situations. I think it’s difficult for him to excel in the spring without pads on. He’s one of those guys that’s probably better off once we’re fully suited up. He’s a guy that I remember (Browns defensive coordinator) Coach (Jim) O’Neil specifically liked him coming out, studied him in his college tape. We were happy to find him on the roster when we got here.”


On preferring Bryant to play on the line or standing up:

“I think he has some versatility. I think we can move him around. I think he could play outside backer in a pinch if we had to, but for now, I’d say predominantly he’ll have his hand down.”


On his days off:

“What I’ve found is when you have time off to take it and to get out of town so don’t look here for me. I will be out and about.”