Barkevious Mingo showed the Patriots’ hand in his first meeting with the New England media when he announced he would play linebacker on his new team. It was still up for debate if that meant he would play as an edge-rushing outside linebacker in the Patriots’ hybrid defensive front.
Nope. Mingo will primarily play a traditional linebacker role for New England, and that became apparent when he lined up all over the Patriots’ front seven in his preseason debut Thursday. Mingo wasn’t overly effective while rushing the passer from defensive end. He was stonewalled by backup New York Giants offensive tackles and found his only success by using an outside spin move late in the first half.
Mingo was extremely productive Thursday while playing inside linebacker in the Patriots’ hybrid front. He was at his best when shooting gaps and using his speed to blow up plays. An NFL scout who watched Mingo against the Giants said, “He looks more like Jamie Collins than a pass rusher.” The scout praised Mingo’s ability to cover tight ends, tackle, blitz and sit in zone.
Mingo uses his athleticism to get off the line extremely quickly, which he uses to take advantage of off-balance offensive tackles like on this 3-yard tackle for loss.
His other impact plays came while shooting gaps.
There’s a reason why the scout called Mingo “Diet Jamie Collins.” Those are the same impact plays Collins makes in the Patriots’ defense. Mingo is just 10 pounds lighter and one inch taller than Collins, but they’re similar athletes.
It’s unclear what exactly Mingo’s role will be with New England, since Collins and Dont’a Hightower likely will remain its only starters in most defensive fronts. Mingo could share the field with Collins and Hightower in three-linebacker sets or bump Hightower down to an edge-rushing role. It will be fascinating to see how Bill Belichick plans to use all of his hybrid defenders.
Running back D.J. Foster was the Patriots’ other breakout performer Thursday, though he has a less certain shot of making and staying on the 53-man roster.
Foster first opened eyes when he hauled in a 30-yard reception on a wheel route from quarterback Tom Brady.
It’s not a tremendous idea to ask a linebacker to cover Foster, a 6-foot, 195-pound running back-turned-receiver-turned-running back.
Foster briefly looked doomed when he hauled in an impressive one-handed grab from Brady only to carry the football like a carton of eggs. It was knocked out from behind and recovered by the Giants.
Foster rebounded nicely and wound up totaling over 100 yards through the air after catching 22- and 20-yard catches late in the game.
Results were mixed for Foster in blitz pickup. He let up a pressure that resulted in a 0-yard sack in the second half but had other solid moments protecting his quarterbacks. Still, he’ll need to clean it up to gain the confidence of Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo.
Foster also needs to work on his ball-carrying skills, but Thursday he looked like the Patriots’ most explosive running back not named Dion Lewis. Because of his hands, speed, quickness and route-running skills, it would be dangerous to dangle him on waivers to be claimed by other teams this weekend.
Thumbnail photo via Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports Images