Sometimes a player can be asked to change positions or take on a role for the betterment of the team, and he does so begrudgingly because it’s the best way to get on the field.
When it comes to Barkevious Mingo, the move from strongside linebacker to defensive end is not one of those instances.
“It’s about time,” Mingo said with a laugh when asked how he responded to news of his position switch.
Mingo, a first-round pick in 2013, was primarily a pass-rusher at LSU, but in part because of his size, and in part because of the type of versatility that can be both a blessing and a curse, he has been used more as a linebacker than as a pure pass rusher during the first six years of his NFL career, including his first season in Seattle when he started at strongside linebacker while also spending part of the season playing weakside linebacker in nickel packages.
“I’m enjoying it a lot,” Mingo said of playing defensive end. “I get to go back to what I did in college. That’s kind of what got me here in the NFL. Being able to do this again, I’m enjoying the opportunity.”
Mingo’s new role is just part of the reason why the Seahawks are encouraged by the potential of their pass rush even after trading Frank Clark in the offseason. In addition to signing Ziggy Ansah, a former Pro-Bowler, the Seahawks also used a first-round pick on L.J. Collier, brought back Cassius Marsh after he spent the past two seasons with New England and San Francisco, moved Mingo to a new position, and are counting on young players like Jacob Martin and Rasheem Green to step into bigger roles.
“I love the guys that we have,” veteran linebacker K.J. Wright said of the pass rush while appearing on the NFL Network Monday. “I love Cassius, he’s been around a long time in this league, Jake Martin’s going to step up. Mingo is looking good. Mingo is looking really good. Don’t sleep on Mingo. So we’re going to be just fine. (Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.) knows the personnel we have, we’re going to blitz as well, so I don’t think the pass rush should be a scare for people, because we have the guys to get it done.”
And while Mingo is hoping a new role leads to a big season, Marsh is hoping a return to where he started his career can lead to big things in 2019. The Seahawks traded Marsh to New England prior to the 2017 season, then after being released by the Patriots later that year, he landed in San Francisco where he had 5.5 sacks in 2018, playing well enough to earn a contract extension, only to be released this offseason after the 49ers acquired Dee Ford in a trade.
“It’s amazing to be back,” Marsh said. “When I left, it was bittersweet for me. I had started to embrace being here, embrace my role, and I loved this city, loved this program. Going away really helped me to appreciate this place a lot more. It’s just not like this anywhere else—the family atmosphere, the love the coaches give, the fun, just everything about the program, so I feel extremely blessed to be back here and I’m just enjoying every day.”
With Clark gone and with Jarran Reed suspended for six games to start the season, the Seahawks pass rush will look decidedly different, especially until Reed returns, but even without Ansah on the field yet as he works his way back from last year’s shoulder injury, there have still been a lot of encouraging signs from the pass rush in the early stages of training camp.
“It’s nice to have a competitive situation,” Carroll said. “Jacob Martin is going to do a nice job there as well. We are going to see a lot of Barkevious Mingo getting prepared to be in the mix there too, so we can make sure we’ve got a lot of speed on the edge. We’ll see how that unfolds. It’s a good, competitive group. I like where we are going with this.”
After watching Mingo record a sack in Saturday’s mock game, Carroll talked more about the decision to move Mingo.
“We’ve really centered his focus on rushing the passer and taking it away from the linebacker spots knowing that he can go back there and help us,” Carroll said. “He’s an emergency guy to play (linebacker) without question. The dedicated work and the focus, the drilling, just his mentality on totally rushing the passer has already shown up. He’s got fantastic speed, he’s got great length, he has an incredible motor. He works so hard, so we are just working at his game and hoping he can be a factor. We know he can rush. We want to see if we can make him a really good rusher that can be a factor. He’s getting a great shot at it.”
Marsh, meanwhile, returns to the team that selected him in the fourth round of the 2014 draft not just an improved player after two more years of on-field growth, but a more mature one who has learned from his stops in New England and San Francisco, and who following the birth of his son, Cassius Jr. in March, is playing with a new sense of purpose.
“It’s the best experience of my life,” Marsh said of becoming a father. “From literally the moment he came out, everything changes. It’s a beautiful thing. A lot of people try to tell you about what it’s like, but you really have no clue until it happens. Nothing else matters after that. It’s kind of hard to put into words.”
Said Carroll, “He has grown up. He’s a grown-up Cassius Marsh. He was a young pup when we had him in the early days and the experiences that he’s had at other clubs and understand what it’s like to go somewhere else and be somewhere else. He’s such a well-rounded player now. He helps other players. He’s talking to young guys. He can do multiple jobs for us, in particularly at special teams. He’s a really, really grooved special teams core guy. All that he brings is really the benefit of all of his years. We are really lucky to have him.”
From Marsh to Mingo and fellow speed rushers like Ansah and Jacob Martin, to the bigger defensive ends who will rush from inside and out such as Collier, Green, Quinton Jefferson and Branden Jackson, Seattle will look different when it comes to its 2019 pass rush, but they don’t see that as a bad thing.
“That meeting room, the D-end meeting room, we have a lot of talent,” Mingo said. “Especially some fast guys. We’ve got some fast guys. We’ve got some guys that are strong and powerful. I think being able to put that together and complement each other is going to be a good year for us.”
Photos from the 10th open practice of Seahawks 2019 training camp, presented by Safeway held on Tuesday, August 6 at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.