By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
In his NFL preseason debut, Browns rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo played into the third quarter and never stopped attacking the St. Louis Rams.
“He was impressive last night,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said Friday during a conference call. “It seemed like he was around the quarterback a lot. Played hard, did a really nice job on special teams as well. So he showed up well.”
Mingo’s mother, brothers and girlfriend made the trip to FirstEnergy Stadium, and their favorite player from West Monroe, La., didn’t disappoint. Mingo showed glimpses of the talent the Browns saw in him when they drafted him sixth overall in April, helping his new team triumph 27-19.
“He has a knack for getting after the quarterback,” inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said after the game. “He showed a tremendous amount of conditioning. For your first game, it usually jumps up on you. Everyone remembers that first preseason game. You take a couple deep breaths and you’re like, ‘OK, this is the real deal.’ But I watched him every play. He’s got a knack for getting after that quarterback. He has a motor, and you can’t teach that. With that attitude, if he continues to grow off that, he could be pretty good in this league.”
The highlight reel started on the Browns’ first kickoff. It was also the first play in which Mingo stepped onto an NFL field for live action against an opponent.
“I really just blacked out and just try to zone in on what I had to do and how I could help the team,” Mingo said after the game. “Just make plays. First one was a kickoff return. Just tried not to let my guy make the play. He didn’t.”
The 6-foot-4 Mingo, who weighs about 240 pounds, raced down the field and smashed into Rams returner Isaiah Pead for a tackle at St. Louis’ 14-yard line.
“You’ve got to use your speed to beat those blockers and just get down there and make plays,” Mingo said. “Speed kills.”
Mingo has practiced primarily as the second-team right outside linebacker throughout training camp, and he continued to play behind Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard in the exhibition opener. But new defensive coordinator Ray Horton put Mingo on the field with Kruger and Sheard for a play in the first quarter. On third-and-7 at St. Louis’ 32, Mingo and inside linebacker Craig Robertson blitzed and knocked down Rams quarterback Sam Bradford as he delivered a 20-yard completion to Chris Givens on an out route with cornerback Joe Haden in coverage.
Late in the second quarter and early in the third, Mingo repeatedly beat Rams backup left tackle Joe Barksdale, his former Louisiana State University teammate. Mingo was credited with two of the Browns’ nine quarterback hits.
On third-and-4 at the Rams’ 45, Mingo took a step to the outside and used a rip move to gain inside position on Barksdale and then hit Rams backup quarterback Austin Davis as he threw an 11-yard completion to wide receiver Stedman Bailey. Two plays later, on second-and-10 at the Browns’ 44, Mingo bull-rushed Barksdale, spun away from him as he fell and got a hand on Davis for a would-be sack that was nullified when the Browns accepted a 10-yard tripping penalty Barksdale committed while trying to stop Mingo.
“Yeah, he tripped me,” said Mingo. “It was kind of a fluke because I barely got a hand on [Davis], and he kind of fell. I was [motioning for us to decline the penalty] on the field. We got the penalty. We got the yards. So it all worked out.”
Then on second-and-16 at the 50, Mingo used his speed to bolt past Barksdale off the edge, chased Davis as he rolled to his right and pushed him down as he threw incomplete.
“That’s one thing that [outside linebackers] coach [Brian] Baker wants us to do,” Mingo said. “He wants us to play wide open. If we make a mistake, make it going 100 mph. So that’s what we set out to do.”
Mingo also had a key block during Travis Benjamin’s 91-yard punt return for a touchdown early in the second quarter. He put pressure on the punter during the same play and flirted with blocking an extra-point kick later in the second quarter.
So Mingo is definitely off to a good start, but he’s not satisfied.
“Everything wasn’t perfect,” he said. “Every play wasn’t perfect. There were some busted assignments, and I’ve got work to do.”
Running back Trent Richardson (right shin) and strong safety T.J. Ward (hamstring) could play in the next preseason game Thursday against the visiting Detroit Lions if all goes well. Both of them sat out against the Rams, though Chudzinski said they’d be able to play if they had to.
“I think we’ll have a number of guys that’ll be back practicing within the next couple days that were out for this game, and we’ll obviously have to see how that goes,” Chudzinski said. “But I’m expecting Trent to practice, and then we’ll see as far as getting him some rep time and getting him some work in the game.”
Cornerback Chris Owens strained the arch of his foot during practice Wednesday and did not face the Rams, but Chudzinski said, “We’re expecting him back at practice in the next few days.”
Offensive tackle Ryan Miller was rushed to the hospital July 27 after suffering a concussion during practice. He has not attended a practice since.
“I spoke or texted with him a couple days ago,” Chudzinski said. “He says he’s feeling better. He’s still resting and that’s kind of where he’s at right now. But he said he’s starting to feel better and making progress.”
Brandon Bogotay made a 25-yard field goal against the Rams and later missed a 54-yard attempt wide left. Shayne Graham, meanwhile, made his lone field goal, a 41-yard attempt. Bogotay had one touchback on three kickoffs, and Graham had two touchbacks on three kickoffs.
T.J. Conley punted twice for 80 yards, including one downed at the Rams’ 1-yard line. Spencer Lanning punted twice for 90 yards, including one that went into the end zone for a touchback.
“I think that all of those guys had some moments where they shined in terms of things they did,” Chudzinski said. “I still see it as really close both from a kicking and punting standpoint. … They’re all neck and neck.”
The Browns did not practice Friday. Practice is set to run from 4-6:30 p.m. today and is open to the public, weather permitting. For updates, call 877-627-6967.
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.