With both Paul Soliai and Randy Starks appearing set to leave, the Miami Dolphins are suddenly in need of defensive tackle help. One name that has bubbled to the top of the constant free agency rumors as of late is Earl Mitchell from the Houston Texans.
The 2010 third round pick has made 97 tackles and two sacks in his four-year NFL career. He's played both three-technique and a nose tackle, and is an underrated member of the Texans defense. He's never been a dominating player but, like Soliai, is able to eat up blocks and take on two players at the same time, using his 6'3", 300-pound frame to free up other defenders to attack opposing quarterbacks. As the Miami Herald's Adam H. Beasley pointed out, the Texans' defense averaged 4.2-yards allowed per carry when Mitchell was not on the field, but that allowed average dropped to 3.1 yards whenever Mitchell was out there.
I reached out to Battle Red Blog, SB Nation's Houston Texans site, for more on Mitchell, with bigfatdrunk providing his thoughts on the defensive tackle:
You know that guy who looks incredible in OTAs and Training Camp year after year, and many people start thinking this is the year he breaks out? That's Earl Mitchell. In practice, he looks like a fantastic player, quick off the snap and disruptive in the backfield.
In games, though, we now have a four year sample size (using eyeballs, stats, PFF rankings, or tea leaves) that says he's below average to flat out replacement level. Especially with the quality of interior defensive line play the Dolphins have received from Randy Starks, Paul Soliai, and Jared Odrick, Mitchell would be a significant downgrade.
System doesn't seem to matter, either. Mitchell was equally mediocre as both a 2-gap under tackle in a 4-3 during the destructive reign of the execrable Frank Bush and as a 1-gap NT in a 3-4 under Wade Phillips. The quickness Mitchell shows in practice has never made it into games, and he doesn't have a ton of power at the point of attack.
There are some smart people who think Mitchell still has considerable potential, but after four years of watching his play, I don't see much there no matter what kind of glasses I wear. I'm personally thrilled we're finally moving on to new talent.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Mitchell, who would be expected to do eactly what bigfatdrunk says, and replace the quality play of Starks and, especially, Soliai. Perhaps a change of scenery is exactly what Mitchell needs.
To be fair, in his first four seasons in the league, Soliai played in 52 games, with 19 starts, recording 70 tackles with two sacks. Mitchell, who just finished his fourth year, has played in 63 games, starting 17, recording 134 tackles with 3.5 sacks. Similar numbers, with more tackles, for Mitchell, which could mean he does still have the potential bigfatdrunk doesn't see anymore - kind of how a lot of Dolphins fans feel about cornerback Nolan Carroll.
Thanks to bigfatdrunk for taking the time to give us a look at Mitchell. Hopefully, if the Dolphins do sign Mitchell, bigfatdrunk will be proven wrong.