What a difference a year makes! John Lynch and Co. have been busy this offseason which comes in stark contrast to previous regimes. While we will have to wait until the season to see how impactful some of these signings and changes may be, just being able to see effort on their behalf brings about an air of positivity not seen in Santa Clara for sometime now.
Over the weekend, Earl Mitchell signed a four-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers. Drafted in the 3rd round by the Houston Texans in 2010, some of the comments and posts I’ve seen indicate he may be past his prime. While his last few seasons in Miami have been cut short due to injury, I still see a solid rotational piece that adds value to our current defensive line. Mitchell can play multiple techniques along the front, and he will be able to give Arik Amsted, Deforest Buckner, and Ronald Blair another veteran to shadow. With those mentioned above along with Quinton Dial, and the possibility of bringing back Glenn Dorsey and/or Chris Jones, the defensive line rotation seems set for a solid bunch to convert over to 4-3. Let’s take a look at some film.
Mitchell’s first game back from IR was also his most productive as a DT where he totaled four solo tackles; two of which were tackles for loss. This gives me some peace of mind about his injury concerns. The emergence of Jordan Phillips in Miami was said to be the main reason for his release. In comparing to the two side by side, I didn’t see a huge contrast in performance which leads me to believe the Miami Dolphins went with a younger player at a smaller price tag versus someone who was actually “outplayed” as I’ve seen a few pundits mention. In the upcoming video we have an example of what I expect to see from Mitchell. He’s a fierce competitor who can manage double teams, and of the film I’ve watched, he will chase the ball until the tackle is made. Here, versus the
San Diego Los Angeles Chargers, Mitchell swims his way to the tackle.
On this next play I highlight an example of Mitchell’s chase-down ability. For a big defensive tackle he’s got some wheels on him and will consistently pursue the ball. As a counter point, I have seen some film where he over pursues, however for the most part he’s pretty consistent with playing his technique. On the following play Melvin Gordon breaks his run outside, and Mitchell doesn't give up on the play and makes a tackle from behind to end the play.
Mitchell has a quick first step and uses his hands well. The following play would be a total blow-by if the guard didn’t basically try to tackle Mitchell. He probably could’ve taken the hand off from Phillip Rivers. Despite the obvious penalty (that wasn’t called) he still manages to blow up this run in the backfield.
While these splash plays are great, I don't expect to see a lot of what Mitchell does on the stat sheet. He should be able to maintain the line of scrimmage, and prevent offensive linemen from getting up to the second level on run plays. Another thing I look forward to seeing from him is his ability to push the pocket. On the following play he’s not credited with the sack, however his ability to push the guard back into the quarterback’s face left Rivers with no where to run. Hopefully he can create some of the same traffic for Aaron Lynch or Ahmad Brooks off the edges.
In the next clips we look at some film versus our beloved San Francisco 49ers. Joe Staley is our best current offensive linemen and Mitchell does a good job here of standing him up and getting into Carlos Hyde’s running lane. Staley has good technique on the play but Mitchell’s power is too much for him and he drives Staley into the hole. This eventually leads to a short run. Again, this is something that won’t show up on the stat sheet, but impacted the play at hand.
The following play displays desire and motor. Lynch said he wants people who will compete every play for the entire play. Mitchell posses those traits. Being placed on IR for a calf injury the following play shows to me he’s pretty much healed and the time off did him well. Below, Hyde catches a dump off on the opposite side of the field. Mitchell comes from deep in the backfield and sprints about 15 yards for the tackle. Were there other players who could’ve made the tackle? Yes, but Mitchell didn't leave it up to them, he pursued until the job was done.
All in all, Mitchell won’t be a stat stuffing beast as we want all free agent signings to be. He will however, be an important cog in our rebuilding process. I look to him to push the youngsters, and also some of the vets along the front. He’s gives us legitimate depth as a rotational player, but I could also see him as a starter on early downs to stuff the run and push the pocket. Go Niners!