Athletic Freak will play Linebacker in the Patriots System
The Patriots have some players who won’t be sleeping much on Monday night, sweating over the league mandated cut-down to 75 players on Tuesday by 4 p.m. Newly acquired LB/DE Barkevious Mingo won’t be getting much sleep either, but he’s not worried about his status. He’s a lock. But he’s far behind his contemporaries in learning the Patriots defense. So he’s burning the midnight oil trying to get up to speed in Bill Belichick’s defense.
Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia love versatile players on the perimeter that can rush the passer, and drop into coverage. Their defensive end/linebacker hybrids allow them to disguise coverages in the secondary and bring QB pressure from a variety of different positions. They just got themselves a very intriguing piece. But first…he has to learn the playbook.
“It’s hard,” he said. “These guys have got a couple months on me. It’s a challenge, but the guys here are really helping me come along, tell me the right directions and just get me ready to play.” Bill Belichick said much the same thing in his Monday morning press conference, stating that Mingo was far behind his teammates.
Mingo is an athletic freak who was drafted in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Browns with the #6 overall pick but never lived up to his draft status. Part of the reason was that with the constant turnover with the Cleveland coaching staffs, he was constantly asked to do different things, having to always learn a new system, and frequently for coaches who didn’t use him properly.
The 6’4, 245-pound Mingo had an incredible performance in the 2013 NFL Combine. He ran a 4.58 time in the 40-yard dash, a 37-inch vertical leap, a 128-inch Broad jump and an excellent 6.84 time in the 3-Cone Drill. But the Browns coaches never fully realized his potential.
“It was a huge challenge,” he said. “Not knowing going into a year what’s going to be the playbook, who’s going to be the coach, how you’re going to be used. But it’s part of the game we chose to play.” Asked about what his strengths were, he said, “I was asked to do a lot of that over there, and rush the passer still, definitely, and cover tight ends.”
The Patriots made it clear to Mingo, he’s going to be a linebacker in their system. With edge rushers Jabaal Sheard, who Mingo credited with being a mentor in his rookie season, Rob Ninkovich, Chris Long, Shea McClellin and Trey Flowers the team has excellent, versatile players who can rush the passer or drop into throwing lanes.
On one such play on Friday night, Long dropped along the line of scrimmage, unseen by Cam Newton, he deflected a pass up in the air that was picked off by Devin McCourty.
Mingo joins Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower as the linebackers who can support the rush defense, cover the tight ends or blitz the quarterback from a variety of different positions. Opponents throwing the ball will find a difficult task in identifying where the pass rush is coming from and where the coverages will be rolling to. Having a pair of linebackers as athletic and fast as Collins and Mingo presents the coaches with some interesting and very intriguing possibilities.
“It’s very exciting,” Mingo said to the media on Monday. “This team is stacked at every position. You have guys on the outside that can cover, you have interior guys that are holding gaps and linebackers that are hitting those gaps and making big plays. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
Mingo, like Sheard and Dion Lewis, came from the losing atmosphere of Cleveland where the Browns won 14 games in his three years there. The Patriots won 13 just last year alone. The irony was not lost on him as he said, one minute he was preparing to play for the Browns against the Bucs and the next, he’s boarding a plane joining the most successful franchise the past decade.
“It’s a huge culture shock,” Mingo said Monday about coming over to New England. “I’m just excited to be a part of it.”
The Patriots don’t care where he was drafted or that he didn’t live up to his Top 10 draft billing in Cleveland. Like McClellin who came over under similar circumstances from Chicago this season, they’re only interested in a talented player learning his role. They don’t expect him to play like a Top 10 draft pick in 2016. What they do expect is for him to learn the defense and do his job. He can be a valuable cog in what makes this intriguing defense a Top 10 unit in the NFL this year. That’s the Patriots way.
Mingo is definitely going to be one of the players to watch as he finds his feet here. It may take a few weeks, but this defense is shaping up (on paper) to be one of the most versatile groups that Belichick has had in New England. And that’s saying something.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2016 Patriots Roster 53 Man Roster Projection Barkevious Mingo Bill Belichick Chris Long Dont'a Hightower Geneo Grissom Jabaal Sheard Jamie Collins New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Patriots linebackers Rob Ninkovich Shea McClellin Trey Flowers