Written by Matthew Cannata | Twitter: @PhinManiacs
Earl Mitchell was one of the first free agents the Dolphins signed when free agency opened back in March. At the time of the signing, a few people were confused as Mitchell had never been a dominant player in the 3-4 defense with the Houston Texans. However, many cited his potential as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense and predicted he would thrive in that type of system.
Now that he’s in Miami in that very system, Mitchell has proven so far to be well worth the aggressive pursuit the Dolphins had in the opening moments.
“I like everything he’s done since the day he’s gotten here to be quite honest with you,” head coach Joe Philbin told the Miami Herald. “He’s a football player through and through. He comes out to the practice field every single day and works his tail off. He’s a good guy in the locker room. He works on the fundamentals, good person, really high on him.”
Mitchell is the only defensive tackle to start all three preseason games and will be a starter on the defensive line on September 7 when the Dolphins kick off against the New England Patriots. While some may look at the stat sheet and wonder why Mitchell only has five tackles, it’s important to realize that Mitchell’s role calls for him to set up the offensive line so those around him can make the plays.
Just how high? Mitchell is the only defensive tackle to start all three preseason games. Playing a position that is as much about setting up for others as it is making plays, Mitchell has five tackles this preseason in just 44 snaps. For his part, Mitchell loves what he can do in the new system.
“It’s totally different having to just shoot a gap,” Mitchell said. “You get to work moves and you get to work basically a chess match against guards and you get to work rushes. It’s completely different. I’ve been the backup for three years when I was in Houston. At the same time, I just want to be a productive part of this team. That’s what my main focus is. As long as I’m doing that, I’m really happy with whatever role I have on this team.”
Mitchell will be in a rotation with Randy Starks, Jared Odrick and most likely Anthony Johnson now that AJ Francis has been placed on injured reserve. The defensive line in Miami is projected to once again be one of the top lines throughout the NFL.
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