The first one is in the books.
Cleveland Browns rookie Barkevious Mingo played in his first NFL preseason game Thursday night, and looked like he belonged. Mingo didn’t even wait until his first defensive play to make his presence felt. The Browns scored on their opening possession, and on the ensuing kick-off Mingo sprinted down the field, evaded a blocker and made the play on the returner.
“I was excited to open the game off,” Mingo said of his kick-off tackle. “I wanted to go down there and make a play.”
He did just that. The rookie didn’t stop there, however. He was as quick as advertised in the pass rush and helped keep St. Louis quarterbacks under pressure. He was credited with a pair of quarterback hits and collapsed the pocket on several more plays.
“It was fun,” Mingo said. “It was everything I thought it would be. I enjoyed being out there with my teammates. I just really enjoyed getting back to playing football.”
The rookie from LSU isn’t about to settle for what he accomplished in the first preseason game.
“There’s a learning curve,” Mingo said about Ray Horton’s defense and the NFL in general. “I have some more work to do. Everything wasn’t perfect. Every play wasn’t perfect, there were some busted assignments and I’ve got work to do.”
In the second half, Mingo recorded his first sack of the preseason. Well, sort of. There was a tripping penalty on the play which negated the sack. The penalty was on the blocker trying to stop Mingo.
“It was kind of flukish,” Mingo said. “I just barely got a hand on him and he kind of fell.”
Mingo joked with reporters that he was trying to convince coach Rob Chudzinski to decline the penalty.
The Rams ended up using double teams to try and slow the pressure from Mingo and veteran linebacker Quentin Groves in the third quarter. If Mingo missed any assignments, he tried to make up for it by getting to the quarterback or the ball carrier in a hurry.
“That’s one thing that coach Baker wants us to do: Tto play wide open if you make a mistake, make it going a hundred miles an hour,” said the rookie linebacker.
Defensive captain D’Qwell Jackson was impressed with the rookie’s first action.
“He did a great job,” Jackson said. “It’s tough going from practice and then going to game speed and being able to rush the passer every down. He did a tremendous job. He showed great poise and condition. He was in great condition and that’s the first battle. When you start playing these games the level of intensity goes through the roof and he was able to match that intensity. We all have a lot of work to do, and it’s a good start for Mingo.”
Free agent acquisition Paul Kruger also liked what he saw out of the speedy linebacker.
“I thought he was really explosive,” Kruger said. “He just has to refine a few things and he is right there. He is an extremely talented guy that knows the defense. For him, I think it is going to be a really good progression, really quick.”
(Photo: Rick Grayshock/WFNY)