June 26, 2016


Browns: Rookie Mingo puts forth sparkling performance

CLEVELAND — Browns rookie linebacker Barkevious Mingo didn’t disappoint in his first NFL start.

Mingo collected one sack, one quarterback hit, two tackles for losses and four total tackles Sunday as Cleveland beat the Cincinnati Bengals 17-6 at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Browns rookie linebacker Barkevious Mingo, left, caused all sorts of havoc Sunday vs. Cincinnati. (AP PHOTO)

The sixth overall pick in the NFL Draft filled in for the injured Jabaal Sheard on the outside and played a significant role in the Browns’ second straight victory.

“My boy, Mingo, he’s special,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “I’ve been saying that all along. He’s got a motor and he’s quicker than a guy his size (6-foot-4, 240 pounds) should ever be. Just wait until he’s got some more games under his belt. He’s going to be even better.”

Mingo’s quickness was most evident on two plays: He attacked the pocket in sacking Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton in the first quarter, then almost beat running back Giovani Bernard to the football after an errant pitch for a 14-yard loss in the fourth.

Nose tackle Phil Taylor referred to those stops in proclaiming the Louisiana State product, “one of the fastest players on the team, maybe the fastest.”

“I’m not going to turn down the compliment from Big Phil, but I know we’ve got some blazers on this team,” a laughing Mingo said. “I’m not telling you I’m slow, but I was just happy being out there helping us get another win.

“It’s like we always say, ‘Next man up.’ I felt great today. We can go play another one if you want to. It’s fun out there.”

After missing a month with a bruised lung he suffered Aug. 15, Mingo has posted sacks in his first three pro games. He is the first NFL rookie to accomplish the feat since Oakland’s Tommy Kelly in 2004.

“KeKe just improves and gets better every single day,” coach Rob Chudzinski said. “He’s fast, he showed up an awful lot, and his energy on the field brings a lot to us. He brings a lot to our defense.”

Brownie bits

Six-time Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas played in his 100th straight game to begin his career and extended his consecutive snaps streak to 6,125, which is the longest active run in the NFL.

“I’m more excited that we’re 2-2 and are making a push in the division,” he said. “We’re starting to win division games, win close games. Those are all encouraging things. It’s hard to make an assessment of the long-term ability of the team, but we did well this week and we won.”

• Tight end Jordan Cameron led all players with 10 catches for 91 yards and a touchdown. Through four games, he has 30 receptions for 360 yards and five scores, putting him on pace to break every team receiving mark.

• Brian Hoyer completed 25-of-38 throws for 269 yards, two touchdowns and a 103.9 rating. He is the first Cleveland quarterback to win his first two starts since Mark Rypien in 1994.

• Running back Willis McGahee rushed for a game-high 46 yards on 15 carries, including gaining 33 yards on the game-clinching touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.

• Fullback Chris Ogbonnaya provided the aforementioned TD on a 1-yard pass from Hoyer with 4:54 left. It was Ogbonnaya’s second career score and his first on a reception.

• Cornerback Chris Owens forced a fumble in sacking Dalton, then recovered the loose football.

Just for kicks

Browns kicker Billy Cundiff missed his first two field goal attempts, but converted a 51-yarder in the third quarter that restored Cleveland’s seven-point lead.

Before his final try, Cundiff fell on his rear end — landing on the painted helmet at midfield — while practicing his leg swing.

“I’m sure you’ll see that on TV, unfortunately, but I think it helped,” the eighth-year pro said. “The ground gave out underneath me, so I kept my steps a little bit lighter on the field goal. Sure enough, I just striped the ball and put it right where it needed to be.”

Cundiff was listed as questionable after straining his right thigh during the Browns’ game in Minnesota last week. He said the injury was not to blame for his misses from 37 (wide left) or 49 yards (wide right).

“It’s not quite where I want it to be, but I think we’re close to being fully recovered,” said Cundiff, who is 5-for-7 on field goals. “I thought I hit the ball well today, all things considered.”

Injury update

Browns guard Shawn Lauvao (left ankle), linebacker Jabaal Sheard (knee), defensive end Billy Winn (quadriceps), quarterback Brandon Weeden (right thumb), linebacker Quentin Groves (ankle), tight end Keavon Milton and tackle Martin Wallace were inactive.

Oniel Cousins made his fourth straight start at right guard for Lauvao, who underwent an arthroscopic procedure on Aug. 9, but resumed practicing last week.

Wide receiver Josh Gordon had X-rays taken for an undisclosed injury following the game.

• Bengals cornerback Leon Hall (hamstring), safety Reggie Nelson (hamstring), cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (hamstring), running back Rex Burkhead, guard Mike Pollak, defensive end Margus Hunt, and guard Tanner Hawkinson were not in uniform.

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict — Cincinnati’s leading tackler — suffered a neck injury, while guard Kevin Zeitler exited after hurting his left foot.
Hard-luck Hardesty

NFL Network reported that Browns running back Montario Hardesty will be released today once he is medically cleared to play. Hardesty would be eligible to sign with any team if he goes unclaimed on waivers.

Hardesty was placed on injured reserve after undergoing left knee surgery on Aug. 15 even though his recovery time was only projected at 6-8 weeks.

The fourth-year pro also suffered a dislocated right thumb and strained hamstring during training camp and completed his fall out of favor with Cleveland CEO Joe Banner and general manager Michael Lombardi.

Extra points

A sellout crowd of 71,481 was in attendance, marking the first time the Browns have drawn back-to-back crowds of more than 71,000 since Nov. 30-Dec. 21, 2008.

• The kickoff conditions were 68 degrees under mostly cloudy skies. Cleveland wore brown tops and white pants, while the Bengals were in all white.

• Brownie the Elf was unveiled as the Browns’ secondary mascot, joining incumbent dog Chomps.

• Linebacker Galen Fiss and guard Abe Gibron were inducted into the Cleveland Browns Legends in a pregame ceremony.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.