Cleveland Browns: Barkevious Mingo Could be Impacted by Potential Switch to 4-3 Defense

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Updated: January 7, 2014

With the rumors and uncertainty currently surrounding the Cleveland Browns head coaching position, one thing that Browns fans can be certain of is change. One of those changes could be a switch in defensive philosophy to a 4-3 style of defense.

Aside from the obvious uncertainty due to the vacancy, adding fuel to a switch to a 4-3 defensive system are the rumors that former Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz has already been tapped by the Browns front office to be the team’s new defensive coordinator.

Schwartz’s Lions ran the 4-3 defense under his tenure, as did the Tennessee Titans when Schwartz served as defensive coordinator from 2001-2008. Schwartz aside, the Browns have already interviewed Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Both Quinn and Bowles have a history of working with 4-3 defenses, specifically Quinn’s Seahawks this year and Bowles’s Philadelphia Eagles last season (where he served defensive coordinator).

Also, current Browns defensive coordinator, Ray Horton, is also interviewing for a head coaching position with the Minnesota Vikings. Does this all guarantee a change in defensive philosophy? No, but it also leaves the door open for a change.

Last week I discussed which Browns player could be traded should the Browns switch to a 4-3 defense. The likelihood of the front office gutting the entire defense due to such a change is unlikely, so which current Browns player would most likely be hurt given a change in defensive philosophy? At first one might think Paul Kruger.

It’s unlikely that the Browns front office would trade Kruger being that they brought him in and signed him to a five-year contract. During his career. Kruger has proven to be most effective as a pass rushing outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense; however a switch to the 4-3 wouldn’t make Kruger useless.

He is big enough to play defensive end in this scheme, where he would still be asked to rush the passer. Kruger did spend some time as a defensive end early in his career in Baltimore, and also played defensive end in college at Utah. In two seasons with Utah, Kruger amassed 124 total tackles and 10.5 sacks as a defensive end. Kruger also has the size to play the strong side linebacker position in a 4-3 defense, however whether or not he would be able to handle run support and coverage would be obvious concerns.

It’s Barkevious Mingo who stands to be hurt the most should the Browns switch from a 3-4 defense.

A defensive end at LSU, Mingo was able to pressure the quarterback to the tune of 29 sacks in three seasons. At the NFL level Mingo could probably still be an effective pass rusher from the end position, but the switch would raise several concerns.

First off, Mingo struggled in his rookie season to stop the rush. Many recall the Thursday night football game against Buffalo where he all but rolled out a red carpet to the end zone for C.J. Spiller on a 54-yard touchdown run. As a defensive end, Mingo would be asked to set the edge on defense, which raises another potential issue aside from his struggles stopping the run.

Standing at 6’4” Mingo has decent size and length for the position, however, weighing only 241 pounds he would surly get pushed around even by heavier offensive linemen. This would hurt him not only in run support but also when rushing the passer, as a stronger lineman could just use Mingo’s speed against him and send him down the field and out of the play, much like we saw at times this season. Mingo also currently lacks the coverage skills and experience to make the switch to a 4-3 weak side linebacker, although that wouldn’t be totally out of the question.

The odds of the front office trading Mingo away are low considering they spent the sixth pick in the 2013 NFL Draft on him. However, a change in position due to a system change would probably impact Mingo the most, being that he is 20-30 pounds lighter than the typical 4-3 defensive ends.

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