When one thinks of the Miami Dolphins defensive line the names that come to mind are generally Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon, but often overlooked is defensive tackle Earl Mitchell. Mitchell, who has had the luxury of playing next to guys like JJ Watt, Mario Williams and Wake throughout his five year career, is often slated as the third or fourth option on the defensive line, but that is not to his detriment.
Mitchell is often left drawing single coverage and has made millions by taking advantage of those situations, and Sunday night’s third preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons was no different.
Mitchell had an extremely productive game tallying two tackles for loss and one big sack on Matt Ryan in only 14 defensive snaps. Falcons projected starter at guard James Stone was annihilated by Mitchell on multiple occasions. With Suh in the line-up, Mitchell can play more freely, often lining up in the 3-technique (lined up in front of the guard’s outside shoulder) whereas last year he was needed to help fortify the middle of the defense.
Thanks to these new opportunities, we will see bigger numbers from Mitchell this season, and that was blatantly obvious against the Falcons. Suh and Wake might not have their statistically best years this season, but players like Mitchell, Olivier Vernon and Jordan Phillips will greatly benefit from their newly found freedom along the line.
Some of the Dolphins players are starting to take notice of Mitchell’s level of play and hard work.
“I think he might be one of one of the most underrated, unknown guys probably on the team.” Said Dolphins’ DE Cameron Wake. “He’s a guy who can rush the passer, he stops against the run. He doesn’t say much, doesn’t make a lot of fuss, but he’s just as hardworking as anybody I’ve ever been around and I think he’s going to have a big year.”
Wake wasn’t the only defensive lineman to gush about Earl Mitchell.
“Earl is a guy that will get his opportunities to play all three downs.” Said defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. “As I talk to him, I understand his background. As we get to know each other, I see that he’s a guy that will take opportunities when we give to him and will make plays.”
Drawing praise from two players who rank in the top five of their positions in the NFL is a great sign when talking about Mitchell’s growth and recent production.
It is easy to overlook Earl Mitchell with the loads of talent on the Dolphins’ defensive line, but at only 27 years old and improving consistently year to year, the Dolphins have a real gem on the line who will help make this line a dominant force in the NFL. Keep an eye out for Mitchell as this Dolphins defense continues to maul offenses week in and week out.
This story was written by Efrain Ramos. Follow him on Twitter: @EfrainRamos
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