By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
The Morning Kickoff …
Mingo the magnificent?: The Browns’ offseason has been characterized by questionable acts by questionable characters.
Desmond Bryant arrived in free agency a month after gaining Internet infamy with a slack-jawed mug shot following an arrest for criminal mischief.
Quentin Groves arrived in free agency and within a month was arrested for solicitation in a prostitution sting in Beachwood and Orange.
Armonty Bryant arrived in the draft with a rap sheet for selling drugs on his college campus to an undercover officer and then was arrested on a drunk driving charge in Oklahoma a week later.
Josh Gordon was slapped with a two-game suspension for violating the NFL substance abuse policy (positive test for codeine, he said) and two weeks later Tweeted about partying with LeBron James on South Beach at 3 in the morning.
And then there’s Barkevious Mingo.
Drafted for his pass rush potential but also for his impeccable character, Mingo has done and said everything right since the Browns made him the sixth overall pick in the draft.
On Tuesday, he was back in T-shirt and shorts, playing with kids on the Browns practice field as part of the NFL “Play 60” youth clinic. All the AFC rookie draft picks attending the NFL Rookie Symposium at the Bertram Hotel in Aurora participated. It was Mingo’s fourth youth clinic, at least, since Browns minicamp ended earlier this month.
Since he was introduced as the first pick of the Jimmy Haslam-Joe Banner-Mike Lombardi era, Mingo has fielded repeated questions about his light weight with patience and aplomb. By now, I wouldn’t have begrudged him an occasional, “Quit it with the weight questions, already” barb.
But when I badgered him again on Tuesday about the prescribed weight coaches wanted him to report at for training camp, he politely answered, “240ish.”
“Will you eat a few double cheesburgers to get there?” I asked, flippantly.
“I’ll probably eat a lot of double cheeseburgers,” Mingo answered, laughing. “Really, I’m not that far away (from 240). I just love cheeseburgers.”
On the field in OTAs and minicamp, Mingo has displayed breath-taking quickness in drills but hasn’t been able to refute questions about his strength and fundamental tackling ability.
“I’m just looking forward to putting the pads on for the first time and actually measuring up to the older guys and see where I am … see where I need to get better,” he said.
Sometimes I wonder if Mingo is too nice and whether he has the “dawg” in him to excel in the NFL. Then I consider the incidents recounted at the top of this story and I feel thankful that squeaky-clean players like Mingo still exist.
Two ships passing: Among the AFC rookies joining Mingo was Jarvis Jones of the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was their first time on a field together as pros, division rivals, mutual first-round picks, pass rushers playing the same position in essentially the same defensive system.
They were defensive rivals in the Southeastern Conference, Mingo at Louisiana State and Jones at Georgia, but never had much interaction until the pre-draft process.
Out of football uniform and pads, the physical differences of Mingo and Jones were apparent. Mingo is a tall, cool glass of water, built like a basketball player or long jumper. Jones is shorter and thicker – a typical Steelers linebacker.
At the NFL Combine, Mingo excelled, besting Jones in every timed drill – by plenty. Mingo clocked a 4.53 40. Jones logged a pedestrian 4.88. On the field, however, Jones over-produced – 28 sacks over the past two years – while Mingo had less than half that amount (12.5).
“He’s deceptively strong,” Mingo said of Jones. “He walked those big offensive tackles back, and he was getting in the backfield, getting sacks, and he just never stopped.”
I asked Mingo what was he deceptive at.
“Deceptively strong,” he said, smiling. “Those guys look at me and think they’re just going to position me. It’s about leverage, not about how strong you are, and about the motor that you have to get what you want. You don’t want to stop till the ball’s down and if you’re doing everything you can, you’ll be OK.”
Forever linked: The Browns selected Mingo sixth overall. The Steelers selected Jones 17th. Mingo is the Browns’ newest pass rush hope. They’ve drafted only one double-digit sacker in the expansion era (Kamerion Wimbley in 2005).
Jones is the latest rush linebacker to roll off the black-and-gold conveyor belt. He follows LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison, Clark Haggans, Jason Gildon, Joey Porter, Greg Lloyd, Chad Brown, Kevin Greene.
Jones said the Browns told him they wanted him. But concerns about a stenosis problem persisted, despite positive medical checks at the combine, and Jones’ poor pre-draft workouts caused him to fall to the Steelers at the No. 17 pick.
“I think I fell to a great organization,” Jones said. “I’m blessed to be there. It’s a great opportunity for me and I’m loving it.
“There’s nothing like playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. You can feel the intensity when you walk into that building. Being a part of this defense is going to mean a lot to me. It’s all about winning.”
Mingo and Jones will play the same position in essentially the same defensive system. Browns coordinator Ray Horton was mentored by Steelers coordinator Dick LeBeau and intends to copy the Steelers’ zone-blitz attack scheme.
Shying from the obvious comparison, Mingo said, “We’re obviously two different people on two different teams. The only thing we have in common is we play the same position.”
“Me and Mingo are friends,” Jones said. “I know he’s going to do great. Hope he has a great career. I know he will.”
I said to Mingo, “Who will be the better pro, you or Jones?”
“We’ll see,” he said with a laugh. “Nobody knows yet.”
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