By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: With the Browns practicing in full pads for the first time this year Sunday, all eyes were on rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo as he got a taste of his first live action in the NFL.
“I thought I had a really good practice, not really good, pretty good,” said Mingo, the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft. “I made some mistakes. I made some plays. But I’ve just got to keep moving forward.”
Showing off his speed, Mingo beat undrafted rookie offensive tackle Martin Wallace off the edge and reached quarterback Jason Campbell before he could get rid of the ball. Defenders, of course, are forbidden from hitting the quarterbacks in practice, so Mingo earned a virtual sack instead of a real one.
“He flashed,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “I saw him getting around the edge on some guys. He had a nice counter move on his pass rush. It was a good day to see him and be able to get him in pads. You can see these guys in full speed finally.”
But Mingo also learned some humbling lessons while facing veteran backup left tackle Rashad Butler. The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Butler repeatedly stopped the 6-4, 240-pound Mingo in his tracks.
“He’s a big guy,” Mingo said. “I have to work on moving my hands, getting his hands off me and getting past him. That’s what it’s about.”
Butler, 30, is impressed by Mingo’s speed. But is Mingo stronger than his long, lean frame suggests?
“Not yet, but I know over time, he’ll get there,” Butler said. “He’s only a young pup. The kid’s only 22, so he’ll get there.
“I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want to have a lot of big guys like us constantly getting their hands on them. So I think his main thing is probably just to be fast off the ball.”
Mingo has consistently worked with the second-team defense since he was drafted partly because fellow outside linebackers Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard, the projected starters, are more complete players at this point.
Still, Kruger is among many who believe Mingo has a bright future in the NFL.
“Mingo is doing all the right things,” Kruger said. “He really is. I’m not just saying that. He’s a guy who works hard. He has the good discipline. He’s extremely talented, athletic. He’s just got all the right attributes. So I think you can expect some big things from him.”
Kruger has high expectations for the entire defense. He won the Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens last season before the Browns signed him to a five-year, $40 million deal in March. He believes his new team has comparable talent on defense to his old squad.
“I think we’re right there with them honestly,” Kruger said. “I’m not just saying that. We have an extremely fast middle linebacking corps. Joe Haden and the other corners are covering extremely well right now, so I’m not exactly sure how exactly it would rank out.
‘‘But there’s a lot of good things that you can look forward to, and it seems like guys are making big plays. A couple of days ago, we had four or five interceptions in practice, so I don’t know. I think there’s a lot of talented guys on this defense.”
Although Kruger said he’s “a little more comfortable” on the left side, defensive coordinator Ray Horton occasionally moves him to the right side. On Sunday, Kruger faced Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas and created some pressure during the showdown.
“Joe’s an awesome player,” said Kruger, who had 13½ sacks last season.
“I’ve had experience with him when I was with Baltimore. He’s a great player. He’s great to go against because it prepares you for the top guys in the league. He’s becoming a friend to me, and I have a lot of respect for him as a player too, so it’s definitely a good little competition out there.”
Last season, Kruger accused Thomas of flopping to draw an unnecessary roughness penalty against him and give the Browns one more shot at the end zone in the waning moments of their 23-16 loss at Baltimore. Kruger said he has since joked with Thomas about the flop accusation.
“It’s kind of in the past now, but it was a funny situation,” Kruger said. “Joe’s a good guy. He’s got a good sense of humor, so it wasn’t anything serious. It was something we had to talk about when I first got here.”
Chudzinski has said he wants to see how quarterback Brandon Weeden handles adversity. Weeden, a former minor-league pitcher and avid golfer, believes he deals with it just fine not only in football, but in other sports, too.
“I gave up a lot of home runs, and what can you do about it?” Weeden said. “That’s the way I look at it. Yeah, it sucks. Move on and worry about getting the next hitter. In golf, I don’t throw clubs. Clubs are too expensive, and I like my golf clubs too much.
Haden intercepted a pass from Weeden in the end zone during a red-zone drill.
“You’ve got to go out and complete a ball the next play to get going,” Weeden said. “That’s kind of been my attitude all along. I don’t know if it’s my personality because I’m so laid-back, but, yeah, it sucks. I hate it. But I don’t want the other 52 guys to see my reaction, getting pissed off, throwing my helmet. That’s not what you want. Move on to the next play. Wash your hands and move on.”
In an 11-on-11, red-zone drill, running back Dion Lewis caught a pass in the flat from Campbell, juked undrafted rookie safety Kenronte Walker, causing him to fall down in front of the goal line, and then jogged into the end zone.
When a reporter jokingly asked whether Walker had found his shoes, Lewis said: “I don’t know. They might still be out there [on the field].”
Lewis’ move caused the crowd to ooh and aah.
“That guy has unbelievable feet – I mean unbelievable feet,” Weeden said. “I was joking with the quarterbacks before practice. I’d love to see that guy do the foot ladder with us before practice. I’d hate to be stuck in the open field with him. You get the ball in space with him, he could make you miss and look silly at times. He’s explosive with the ball in his hands.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. 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.