August 31, 2014

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Browns rookie Barkevious Mingo opens career with sack, exciting debut

Cleveland Browns rookie linebacker Barkevious Mingo (AP photo)

Cleveland Browns rookie linebacker Barkevious Mingo opened the game against the Ravens by sacking quarterback Joe Flacco Sunday. (AP photo)

BALTIMORE – Barkevious Mingo exploded off the line and flew by giant Ravens left tackle Bryant McKinnie.

Before quarterback Joe Flacco could set and throw, Mingo dragged him down for a 9-yard loss.

On Mingo’s first NFL snap, he sacked the reigning Super Bowl MVP. Not a bad introduction to the league.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” he said. “Us guys, we like hitting quarterbacks.

“My dream scenario is getting one on every play. But it was a good feeling to start the game out. Gave me the confidence I needed to play and continue to make plays.”

The debut came on the ninth play of the Browns’ 14-6 loss. The No. 6 pick out of LSU missed the opener with a bruised lung suffered Aug. 15. He showed no ill effects, playing 15-20 snaps on defense and about another 10 on special teams.

“Feel good. Like all the other games,” he said.

Mingo played most of his snaps at right outside linebacker, subbing for Jabaal Sheard. He also took snaps on the left side and blitzed from the middle on a couple of third downs. He finished with two tackles, batted a pass back into Flacco’s face and drew two holding penalties – one on defense and one as he rushed a punt. He was the first man down to cover a punt in the fourth quarter, but missed the tackle, allowing Tandon Doss to get loose for 21 yards.

“I was impressed with him for coming back and getting those first snaps in during a live game,” coach Rob Chudzinski said. “He did a real nice job and was able to get pressure on the quarterback. He was active and he was flying around pretty well today.”

Mingo was drafted that high because of his speed and athleticism, and they were obvious against the Ravens. He also showed good awareness by recognizing a screen was coming, stopping his rush and reversing field to tackle running back Ray Rice.

“Very impressive. To have a batted ball, to get a sack, the guy picked up where he left off,” inside linebacker and captain D’Qwell Jackson said. “That’s just one more tool we can use. That’s going to be great for us down the stretch.”

“Oh, the guy did well,” cornerback Chris Owens said. “He’s a huge game-changer for us on defense and we expect a lot from him.”

Mingo was injured in a preseason game against the Lions on a normal hit on the opening kickoff. He was on the punt return team all game Sunday, then filled in for Quentin Groves on the punt coverage and kickoff return units in the second half.

“Going into it I really wanted to be on special teams, anyway, but didn’t get those reps in previous weeks so it was limited,” Mingo said. “He went down and I had to come in and fill in for him.”

Groves left the game with a left ankle injury. Chudzinski said X-rays were negative, and Groves left the locker room in a boot and on crutches.

Mingo was already in the rotation at outside linebacker, but the loss of Groves to what looks like a high ankle sprain will only increase his playing time. He’s ready.

“I wanted more plays, for selfish reasons, I guess,” Mingo said. “We’re playmakers in the outside linebacker room and we want to compete for those reps.

“Those guys don’t want to come out. I want to stay in. I think that’s what helps us as players.”

The excitement of the day was dulled by the loss.

“I feel like if I could have done a little bit more maybe we would have won,” he said. “The team feels the same way. We know we missed some opportunities. We’ve just got to finish the ballgame.

“(Contributing) felt good. But the end result was still a loss.”

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @scottpetrak.