NOTEBOOK: Ansah and Mingo making plays early on; Fairley needs to break out and more

Posted Oct 11, 2013

Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah and Browns linebacker Barkevious Mingo separated by just one pick in the draft have become playmakers for their respective defenses

Barkevious MingoLB Barkevious Mingo (Photo: AP Images)

Ziggy Ansah and Barkevious Mingo were the No. 5 and No. 6 picks, respectively, in April's NFL Draft.

Through the first five games, Ansah and Mingo lead all rookies with three sacks apiece.

Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said he liked Mingo before the draft, but Ansah was more the kind of player the Lions were transitioning to on defense.

"If I were buying guys, a 6-5, 285 (pound guy) that runs the 200 meters in 21.6, I know who I'm taking," Cunningham said. "And I think Mingo's a heck of a good player. I mean, he really is. We watched him a lot; he's a different guy. He's not as big as Ziggy and we needed to get bigger.

"Our division is so tough week after week when you play each other that we've been through the shorter, smaller, faster guys. Now we have some bigger guys and I like that."

It turns out both players landed in the right scheme.

Ansah has excelled in the Lions' Wide-9 scheme with his good combination size, speed and athleticism coming off the edge.

Mingo (6-4, 240) has been a perfect fit for the Browns as a stand-up speed rusher of the edge in their 3-4 defense.

"He is a high energy guy, he has the athleticism but he plays hard, doesn't take a snap off and plays to the whistle," Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said of Mingo.

"A lot of what he is doing is athletically because he is gifted in that way. He has gotten better from a technique standpoint but he is playing relentless as well."

Lions left tackle Riley Reiff struggled last week against Green Bay and a similar 3-4 scheme and speed rusher in Clay Matthews. That's a key matchup this week.

As is Ansah's matchup with Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas.

"I've said it before, coaches kill a lot of players off by over-coaching them and I'm guilty, all of us are guilty," Cunningham said. "(Ansah's) best thing is he hasn't been coached for a long time. He started late and he's got great size and natural ability and he has fun playing. He's the same every day. Doesn't say much, but he enjoys the game."

We'll see which talented rookie has the bigger impact Sunday.


We talk all the time about how defenses change what they normally do when they play the Detroit Lions and receiver Calvin Johnson.

The same can be said about opposing offenses and the way they try to attack Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

"Our line coaches say, ‘Well, the center turns left on 35 out of 55 passes.' We play them and the center turns every time to his right, our left, which is where Suh plays."

The beneficiary to that kind of blocking scheme should be fellow defensive tackle Nick Fairley, but the impact hasn't been as prevalent the last couple weeks.

Besides being in the right spot at the right time to pick up a fumble for a touchdown vs. Chicago two weeks ago, the third-year defensive tackle has one tackle and two quarterback hits the last two weeks.

"Nick played really well early in the season then he kind of fell off and got hurt a little bit," Cunningham said. "This last week he got better and he's had a really good week of practice, so I think everything will be okay."

"I think the (shoulder) injury he had, he worried a little bit about it, now I think he's over it and I'm looking forward to seeing this game. I think he'll be really great."

He needs to be for the Lions to be successful.


Cleveland All Pro cornerback Joe Haden is only two years older than Lions rookie cornerback Darius Slay, but Slay kept close tabs on Haden's career at Florida and his early career in the NFL and has tried to tailor his game after Haden's.

In fact, the two have been in contact via Twitter, according to Haden, and plan to exchange jerseys after the game. Barring an injury, Haden's jersey is likely to be a little more game used than Slay's.

Slay started the season's first two games at right cornerback, but has since lost his spot to veteran Rashean Mathis.

The Lions think Slay is going to be a very good player for them, but Mathis gives them the best chance to win right now.

Haden had this advice for Slay in a conference call with Detroit reporters this week:

"Honestly, just tunnel vision," Haden said. "There's going to be a lot of bumps and bruises along the way and especially playing at our position, the cornerback position, where you can be exposed, just going against a top-notch receiver each week.

"You just got to make sure that you stay focused, don't listen to the outsiders, listen to your coaches, just work on what you've been getting beat on, practice your technique. A defensive back has to have a very short memory, so I just tell him just don't worry about it, just keep going out there, keep grinding every day, just trying to get yourself better."

Sound advice from one of the league's best.


• Defensive end Israel Idonije was fined $15,750 for a leg whip in Green Bay.