CLEVELAND: Although Leon McFadden has resisted calling his shot when it comes to the Browns’ cornerback competition, fellow rookie Barkevious Mingo clearly believes McFadden should be oozing with swagger.
McFadden, a third-round pick in this year’s draft, has been competing this offseason against Chris Owens and Buster Skrine for the starting cornerback job opposite Joe Haden. Throughout organized team activities and the team’s mandatory minicamp, Owens and Skrine split time with the first-team defense while McFadden worked with the second unit.
But the competition will heat up once training camp opens July 25, and Mingo realizes McFadden shouldn’t be counted out.
“He’s a hard-working guy,” Mingo said Tuesday as the Browns’ rookies participated in a youth football camp at FirstEnergy Stadium. “He’s a guy that hopefully we’re going to be depending on when the time comes.”
Mingo, the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft who’ll play outside linebacker for the Browns, attended Louisiana State University, where he had some elite cornerbacks as teammates. Mingo insists McFadden, who went to San Diego State, stacks up well against two notable LSU products — Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, the fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft, and Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne, the sixth overall selection in last year’s draft.
“I think he’s looked just as good or better than some of those players,” Mingo said of McFadden. “Obviously Pat was a tremendous talent. Mo’s a tremendous talent. But I think Leon could have came in and played at LSU with all the DBs we had. He could have been one of those players.”
The 5-foot-9, 195-pound McFadden, though, has played the humble card and avoided anointing himself a starter with Owens and Skrine ahead of him on the depth chart.
“Those guys are technically vets in the game, and they’re both good players,” McFadden said. “They’re competing for that No. 1 spot just as well. At the end of the day, when the season starts, we’ll find out [who will start].”
No matter how the starting lineup shakes out, McFadden is confident fans fearing the secondary is an area of weakness will be pleasantly surprised once the season starts.
“The way I see it, we’re competing in practice, and we’ll be a strong and positive secondary,” he said.
In the meantime, he’s working to do his part.
“I’ve grown as far as studying off the field,” McFadden said. “I feel like the time I’m doing that off the field has extended since college. So that’s the biggest adjustment, and the speed of the game. Everybody’s the best of the best here, so you have to stay on your ‘A’ game every day.”
Mingo has no doubt McFadden will deliver, even if the latter is hesitant to make any promises.
Mingo has recently established an offseason routine by pounding cheeseburgers at Five Guys.
“I’ve been there three days in a row,” Mingo said with a laugh.
Mingo, though, has always been able to eat whatever he wants without his waistline suffering consequences. So Mingo plans to report to training camp in late July at his current weight of 237 pounds despite his fast-food binge.
“A lot of people think you have to be a certain weight to play a certain position,” said Mingo, the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft. “I don’t think that’s true.”
The 6-foot-4 Mingo indicated the coaching staff has not encouraged him to bulk up.
“They really don’t care,” he said.
Mingo believes the Browns’ defense has the potential to become the top unit in the NFL.
“I think if everything is going well, I think this defense could be the best in the league,” Mingo said. “We have a lot of players that can contribute and help this team win. We’ve got a lot of rushers. We’ve got corners on the back end. We’ve got D-linemen that can hold those blocks and get off and make plays. We’ve got linebackers that can come up and tackle the run and get back in coverage as well. So we have a lot of tools that we can use.”
Mingo said the players have embraced defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s attack-oriented mindset.
“I think he has a very strange personality,” Mingo said. “But we like it. We love it. He’s an aggressive guy — we like that — and it shows in his play calling. He loves to blitz. He loves to get after people, and we like that. I definitely love to play for a guy that’s going forward instead of waiting for them to come at you.”
Agenda for rookies
After the Browns’ mandatory minicamp ended June 6, the veterans went on vacation and the rookies stayed with the organization to participate in the offseason conditioning program and attend meetings at its headquarters in Berea.
On Thursday, the undrafted rookies will be permitted to go home. The five members of the Browns’ 2013 draft class, though, will stick around because they’ll attend the NFL Rookie Symposium next week in Northeast Ohio.
The symposium will run June 23-29 with the Bertram Inn and Conference Center in Aurora serving as its base. Stops at the Browns’ training facility and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton are also on the itinerary. Browns special adviser and legendary running back Jim Brown will conduct a history session for the rookies at the hall of fame.
The area will host the symposium for the second consecutive year.
Mingo said there were no updates about his rookie contract being finalized, but he reiterated he’s not worried about it. He believes he’ll sign in time for training camp. … Browns wide receivers Davone Bess and Greg Little have traded jersey numbers. Bess will now wear No. 15, and Little will don No. 18, Browns media relations coordinator Dan Murphy wrote on Twitter. … The Browns’ rookies watched the Indians play the Kansas City Royals Tuesday night at Progressive Field.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.