BEREA, Ohio—Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil said he’s looking for big things from his defense in the second year.
One of the players that O’Neil is looking for a big bounce back year is from Barkevious Mingo. The sixth-overall draft pick from LSU in 2013 played in 15 games last year but just had 39 tackles with just two sacks. He had four passes broken up last year. He had five sacks as a rookie and eight passes broken up and finished with 42 tackles.
Mingo had three of his seven career sacks in the first three games on his career, but has had just five in the other 27 games he’s played.
In fairness, Mingo injured his shoulder on the second play of the regular season and was limited to wearing a shoulder harness the rest of the year. He had surgery to correct the shoulder after the season and is still wearing a red “no contact” jersey in minicamp.
“When we came out of training camp last year, we thought Mingo was one of our best outside backers,” O’Neil said prior to the final day of minicamp. “We all know about the injury he suffered in play two of the season.
“(Mingo) is going to have to compete for playing time on early downs,” he said. “He’s going to have a role in our sub-packages. No one is guaranteed anything on the defense. Joe Haden knows that, Donte Whitner knows that and Karlos Dansby knows that. You’re going to have to earn playing time. We’re deep in every position group. Mingo is going to have to come back ready to go, and he’s going to have to earn it.”?
O’Neil was asked if he’s down on Mingo.
“No, not at all,” he said. “He’s done a great job. I think where Mingo has really taken a step this year is he’s been able to participate in all of the passing stuff, all of the 7-on–7 drills with the red shirt on – I’m sure you guys have seen him out there.
“Coming out of LSU, he had no experience with that stuff,” he said. “Right now, he’s by far our best linebacker in coverage, our best outside backer. Now, we’re going to see where he is when we get back to training camp and the pads come on of how he is at outside backer setting the edge, how he is as a defensive end rushing the quarterback and that kind of stuff.
“We were very optimistic about Mingo coming out of training camp last year,” he continued. “We’ve improved the depth, we’ve improved the competition in that room with a Scott Solomon, a Nate Orchard, like we have in every room. Guys are going to have to earn it. We don’t care where you were drafted, when you were drafted, how much you’re getting paid. The best 11 guys and the guys who earn their roles are the guys who are going to play.”
One of the players who showed some flashes late last season was Scott Solomon and he could push Mingo for playing time, particularly in the early downs.
“Scott is very quickly becoming one of my favorite players on the defense,” O’Neil said. “He embodies everything we talk about when we say ‘Play Like a Brown.’
“I think the offense calls him ‘Bloodbath’ because it’s like a heat-seeking missile coming off the edge,” he said. “I do see him competing with Armonty Bryant once he’s full go at the rush linebacker position. I see him getting a considerable amount of reps on early downs. He’s going to have to earn his reps in later downs in passing situations, but he is definitely going to help us on the edge in the run game.”
Mike Pettine agreed with O’Neil’s assessment and was asked what he likes about him.
“His approach, his mentality, his physicality,” Pettine said. “He’s a very physical, hands on guy.”
Solomon (6–3, 260) was added to the Browns practice squad on Nov. 18, 2014 after being released by the Buccaneers where he played in six games. After four weeks on the practice squad, he was elevated to the Browns active roster and played in the final two games last year and had four tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and forced a fumble in his first game against the Panthers. He had three tackles in the season finale against the Ravens.
Originally, Solomon was a seventh-round draft pick from Rice by the Titans in 2012
O’Neil explained what stands out to him about Solomon.
“Just his ability,” he said. “We talk about aiming point, hand placement, his ability to set the edge in the run game. He’s very good at it. His ability to wreck a running play, versus a down kick-out block, an aggressive block coming at him, whether it’s a pulling guard, a fullback. It’s going to be a car accident when Scott Solomon meets a pulling guard or a fullback.
“Being unselfish and being willing to take on two blockers at the point of attack, sacrificing your body so an inside backer can scrape through over the top and make a tackle for a loss,” he continued. “Those are things we’ve had other places I’ve been. We had them at times last year. It was inconsistent. Scott is going to give us a very steady player on the edge doing those kinds of things.”