Great teams have the luxury of slowly phasing in their rookies. They can take their time to bring them up to speed, teach them, mold them, and put them in positions to succeed. We haven’t had much of that in Cleveland. But when Mingo went down with his bruised lung in the preseason the usual panic and disgust that usually goes along with Browns’ news of this sort didn’t seem to come. WFNY explored this topic before week one, trying to understand the unusual calmness that Browns fans were portraying regarding the Mingo injury.
A little over a week later, sitting at 0-1, and staring at a very real possibility of falling to the playoff killing 0-2 — Mingo’s return to the field couldn’t come at a better time. All the talk in the off season of change with the new front office, coach, coordinators, and free agent additions had hopes surprisingly high for 2013. There seemed to be a different feel surrounding the 2013 Browns than there had been in any year since ’99. Then week one actually happened, the Browns looked identical to the team we’ve grown accustomed to watching, losing yet another tight, low scoring, ugly football game.
Now the fan base, has turned from cautiously optimistic to just plain cautious. Little news throughout the week would deter the hopeless feelings leftover from the Dolphins loss, but the announcement that first round pick Barkevious Mingo would see limited action in Baltimore is a start.
It’s unclear how many snaps Mingo will play on Sunday, whether they’ll be on special teams or with the starting defense. But just seeing the electrifyingly fast number 51 on the field at M&T Bank Stadium is a positive.
Who knows how limiting Mingo’s bruised lung will be? It’s an injury that requires caution — Mingo could play one play and deem himself unfit, or the pass rusher out of LSU could feel normal and contribute all game long.
What the Browns need to do is put him in positions to be successful. Since Mingo has missed so many valuable reps in the preseason and in practice, he surely is not up to speed with all the assignments in Ray Horton’s defense — but he doesn’t need to be.
The Browns need to get Mingo on the field in situations where he can pin his ears back and do what he does best — rush the passer. Don’t bog the rookie down with trying to think, make it simple and easy for him. See that goofy looking guy in the number 5 jeresey? Go get him.
With it unclear how much we’ll actually see Mingo on Sunday I’m trying not to get my hopes up. However, after the yet another stomach punch by the Browns on opening day I’m starved for anything to get me excited. Any display of Mingo’s speed, a hit on Flacco, a hurry on Flacco, even a sneeze on Flacco will get me excited.
The new Browns regime promised things would be different, yet so far things look the exact same. Mingo was the first draft pick of the Lombardi/Banner era and the perception of Mingo’s success will surely mirror the perception of the front office. It’s never too early to start seeing the 6th overall pick paying dividends.
[Photo: Candace Vicek]