By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
Extra Points …
Fancy meeting you: Brian Hoyer’s first home start with the Browns has obvious special meaning to the native Clevelander. The same can be said of rookie linebacker Barkevious Mingo.
With Jabaal Sheard (knee) missing the two busy days of the practice week, Mingo is sure to receive his first NFL start Sunday against the Bengals. As an added thrill, Mingo will play primarily opposite Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who, it turns out, has been somewhat of a mentor to Mingo.
The two attended the same high school in West Monroe, LA., and also Louisiana State University. Not at the same time, of course. Whitworth, 31, is eight years older than Mingo. But their home roots spawned a relationship that goes back to Mingo’s basketball playing days his junior year in high school.
The Bengals’ football season had just ended and Whitworth was back to witness a state tournament game.
“I got to take the whole team out after they won,” Whitworth said in Cincinnati this week. “I took them all to dinner, just to give them something to be uplifted about because that’s such a football school. The basketball team kind of gets ignored, so I wanted something for those guys to feel special about.”
The following year, Mingo joined the West Monroe football team. Whitworth kept in touch with him as his football career took him to LSU, where he blossomed into the sixth overall pick of the 2013 draft.
“I told him he had the explosiveness and all he had to do was keep adding size and learn the game,” Whitworth said. “I told him from the day I saw him in high school, ‘You just have to worry about those first three steps because that’s what every great edge rusher has.’ He’s got them. He’s going to be a special player down the road. He’s already got two sacks this early in his career.”
Mingo’s workload has increased after missing the season opener while his infamous bruised lung healed. In Game 2 against Baltimore, Mingo played 25 snaps on defense and 10 on special teams. In Game 3 against Minnesota, Mingo played 54 snaps on defense and two on special teams.
This week, Mingo has been removed from all special teams in preparation for his first start.
Mingo told Cincinnati media on a conference call, “I’m waiting to see how everything unfolds, but if I’m called upon I’m going to take the opportunity and run with it. I feel like I’m progressing down the right path. There’s some stuff that I know I have to get better at but in time I’ll be there.”
Of the opportunity to make his first start against Whitworth, Mingo said, “It will be a clash. Me and Whit go back. He’s a great player and I’m looking forward to going up against him.”
Third down breakdowns update: Coordinator Ray Horton is asked every week about the defense’s ugly numbers on preventing third-down conversions. After losing 8 of 16 third down conversions in Games 1 and 2, the Browns’ defense improved only slightly in Game 3, giving up 8 of 17. Overall, the 49 percent conversion rate by opposing offenses ranks 30th ahead of only Oakland and St. Louis.
“Concerning … alarming … not good enough, and that goes on me,” Horton said. “But I’m calling a different game than I normally do until we get comfortable. Is it alarming? It’s shocking to me. But it’s reality. All of our numbers are really predicated on that. We’ve got to fix it and when we do fix it, watch how the numbers change.”
In the context of a question about the development of the secondary, Horton said, “Work in progress. Incomplete. We’re not where we want to be. It’s just not them, it’s guys up front, too. I think we’re on face, on page. We’re not near what we will be. Our defense, we probably have only 50 percent of it in. There’s bigger and better things to come.”
McGahee’s promise: Willis McGahee is expecting a lot more of himself this week than in his rushed debut in Minnesota. Last week he reported to the Browns on Friday and was forced in on 14 offensive snaps. McGahee carried 8 times for 9 yards – and that included a long run of 9.
“It’ll make a big difference (having a full week to prepare),” he said. “Like I said, it just takes time. I would’ve been great to go in there and just do my thing. But it takes time, and we got the W.
“There will be dramatic improvement (against Cincinnati). I’m going to have more than 8 yards.”
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner said “we’re working hard” at developing the running game to balance the offense. Through three games, the Browns have passed the ball 74 percent of the time.
“Another week will help (McGahee),” Turner said. “We’ve got three guys and we’ve got to use them all. Willis got here a week ago and (Bobby) Rainey got here three weeks ago and O (Chris Ogbonnaya), we know who O is, he’s a fullback/tailback/special teams guy. So we’re managing that as well as we can.”
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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