RENTON, Wash. — When Barkevious Mingo walks through the Seattle Seahawks’ headquarters on his way to team meetings, he no longer thinks about joining the linebackers.
He’s now all about being a defensive end, the position where the former first-round pick starred in college.
“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 said.
The Seahawks will get their first look at Mingo at the position when they open their preseason schedule hosting Denver on Thursday. While Mingo is in favor of making the switch to the LEO position — the defensive end primarily responsible for rushing the quarterback — his move also highlights issues facing the Seahawks on the defensive line, and in particular in the pass rush.
Frank Clark, who led Seattle in sacks last season, was traded to Kansas City. Jarran Reed, second on the team in sacks, will miss the first six games after being suspended by the league. Ezekiel Ansah, the Seahawks’ biggest free agent signing, has yet to participate in a full practice as he is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, but he might be ready for Week 1.
Quinton Jefferson and Jacob Martin each had three sacks last season and are the leading players in that category who could be on the field for the opener against Cincinnati.
So yes, the pass rush is a major concern and Mingo is being asked to be part of the solution.
“We know he can rush. We want to see if we can make him a really good rusher that can be a factor,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s getting a great shot at it.”
When Mingo signed with Seattle before last season, it primarily was to be a strongside linebacker playing on the line of scrimmage. He ended up being a significant contributor, starting a career-best 14 games and recording 48 tackles. He also was a core player on special teams. Because of injuries, Mingo ended up playing both outside linebacker positions and a bit of defensive end last year.
When coaches suggested moving Mingo to defensive end permanently, there was no hesitation.
“It’s about time. Seriously, I guess one of the things that kind of, not plagued in my career, but I would say helped me in my career, is that I’m able to do a lot of stuff and coaches recognize that kind of stuff. They see a need that I can help fill,” Mingo said. “It’s a blessing and a curse, but I’m glad that I get to go back and do what got me here.”
At LSU, Mingo played mostly on the defensive line and was disruptive. He had 15 total sacks in three seasons. He stood out his sophomore season in 2011, when he had 46 tackles, 15 for loss, and eight sacks.
Getting that kind of production now seems unreasonable after years of mostly playing linebacker. But the preseason will be important as Mingo, Martin and Cassius Marsh, among others, try to prove the pass rush concerns can be handled internally.
“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,” Mingo said.
NOTES: Quarterback Russell Wilson will not play against Denver, a departure from previous years when the starting quarterback would get at least one series in the opener. Carroll said the focus for this game will be getting a look at the young guys. Geno Smith will start at quarterback and be followed by Paxton Lynch.