LSU’s defensive end and linebacker Barkevious Mingo is one of the scariest prospects in the 2013 NFL draft.
Beyond his unorthodox first name, he has a set of physical tools that are hard to find. He is 6’4, 240 pounds and runs like the wind. He has good enough change of direction (COD) skills and motor to go along with jaw-dropping power in his misleading thin and lengthy body.
Conversely, at times, you worry if those physical tools will ever be hampered by a lack of self-control and rawness. He often leaves his assigned rush lane, opting to peel off on a running back into the flats despite the team having flat defenders in their Cover 2 play-call. He’ll completely stop rushing the passer if he doesn’t beat the blocker around the corner, instead settling for throwing his hands up (way too much) in hopes of redirecting the pass. And he plays with dangerously high pad-level, which explains his lack of pass rush production this season.
Despite the above concerns, he’s going to be a favorite of many personnel men, especially those who will look at him and see the same potential they saw in Aldon Smith. Smith and Mingo are built slightly differently, with the former being thicker, but they share one significant characteristic in common: violent hands.
When a pass blocker kickslides out to his side, his first thought isn’t about the speed of the edge rusher, it’s his power. Offensive tackles have to be most concerned about their ability to anchor because that’s what sets up the footwork, giving them a firm base at their feet and consequently, strong balance in the upper body.
But when a pass rusher has violent hands, or what some call “pop”, it doesn’t always matter how the blocker has organized his feet. Base or no base, the blocker is going backwards because of the sheer power in the pass rusher’s hands. Against Texas A&M earlier this season, Mingo showed this on numerous occasions, most notably against stud right tackle Jake Matthews.
Prior to the snap, Mingo lined up at his usual five technique over the right tackle’s outside shoulder. He was a part of a five man rush that defensive coordinator John Chavis called, and his assignment was to be a contain rusher, meaning he would take an outside path to balance out the pass rush.
When the ball snapped, he quickly exploded out of his coiled stance and ran upfield. Meanwhile, Matthews was preparing for the power of Mingo by setting his feet wide to form a sturdy base. However, when Mingo engaged with him, the base crumbled. Rushing upfield, Mingo changed directions to the inside and took a shot at Matthews’ chest with his right hand, knocking him backwards. Matthews’ feet quickly closed, and Mingo took advantage by sinking his hips and driving through the right tackle.
This same power was witnessed a few plays later against the right guard. Mingo was once again at the five technique, and this time he would be stunting inside. When the ball was finally snapped, Mingo came across the face of the right tackle and sunk his hands into the chest of the guard. The latter wasn’t ready for this and appeared to have his weight at his back after being jarred by the young pass rusher. A quick disengagement and slap saw the blockers go in reverse once more.
Violent hands must be appreciated when a pass rusher possesses them because not all do. Mingo does and shows flashes of very good pass rush when he uses them. What holds him back, however, is his poor footwork and pad level. These are the two major concerns that he can be coached out of but will he be?
In the two illustrations above, one can see that Mingo has jolting hands but also that his pad level and footwork are lacking. He’s not truly playing with a strong base at his feet, with his feet moving too close to each other. When this occurs, he is suspect to being knocked off balance by an aggressive and strong pass blocker. He’s also playing with his pads pointing skywards, which is something that he does too much of. His bulrushes are largely ineffective because of this, as he cannot generate enough power to walk the blocker back. A bulrush has to be executed with proper pad level in order for the power to go from the feet, through the thighs and up through the arms and hands.
There’s another concern that many will look to and it’s his apparent lack of flexibility. He doesn’t flatten the corner on his speed rushes, seemingly showing an inability to cave his hips and bend his knees to turn the corner. Instead, he’s seen only getting wider and wider from the quarterback. This is a legitimate concern, especially if he doesn’t ever learn how to use the power in his hands. In the past, pass rushers have had this same issue and struggled to expand their repertoire in the NFL, consequently compiling average sack numbers (see Brian Orakpo).
However, he does have the explosiveness to threaten the edge, and he has the ability to transition from speed to power in an instant. Against the Washington Huskies, he flashed that with great effectiveness.
Rushing from the outside again, Mingo went straight upfield to indicate that a speed rush was coming. In order to match the speed, sophomore right tackle Mike Criste kickslid outside in a hurry. When he did, Mingo took a step inside with his right foot and pressed his hands into Criste’s upper body and extended his arms. With his right foot in the ground, Mingo put pressure on it to build up lower body power and then took a step with his left foot. The left foot enabled him to leverage Criste further outside, and then the right foot would follow. Mingo’s right foot came off the ground, and he rolled his hips to toss Criste aside to complete the converted bulrush.
Watching Barkevious Mingo’s games, it’s fairly obvious that he is no Von Miller, who some have likened him to. He simply doesn’t have the flexibility and athleticism that Miller possesses. However, he does have some talent of his own, notably the aforementioned violent hands and overall power. The question that scouts will have to answer is if he will ever realize his talent by breaking the habit of poor footwork and pad level.
All snapshots taken are courtesy of Draftbreakdown.com videos.