All-22: Why Mitchell Could Be a Fit

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At this time last year, there weren’t many positive things to say about Mike Mitchell’s NFL career.

Drafted earlier than many projected (second round, 47th overall) by the Raiders back in 2009, the Ohio product managed to start just nine games in four seasons. He signed with the Panthers on a one-year, $1 million deal, and after a solid 2013 campaign, Mitchell could be an attractive option for teams needing safety help this offseason.




The chances of the Eagles landing Jairus Byrd or T.J. Ward appear to be slim. Of the safeties in the next tier, Mitchell fits a lot of the qualities (we think) Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman are looking for.

Mitchell is 26 and has the measurables. The 6-foot, 210-pounder was not invited to the combine coming out of college but reportedly ran a 4.39 40 at his Pro Day. He never started more than four games in a season for the Raiders and played a total of 1,576 snaps there, per Pro Football Focus. That's roughly the equivalent of a year and a half for a full-time starter.

Mitchell played free safety for the Panthers and only lined up in the box 22.7 percent of the time on run snaps, per PFF. That ranked 52nd out of the 63 safeties who played at least 50 percent of their team's snaps in 2013. In coverage, he was a big hitter whose athleticism showed up on tape.

In this play against the Falcons, he's in charge of the deep middle part of the field. Roddy White is going to run a crosser in front of Mitchell.

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He doesn't bite on the play-fake and starts to inch up. You can see in the next frame that Mitchell has about 7 yards of ground to make up before Matt Ryan's pass gets to White.

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But he closes quickly, meets White in the air and breaks up the pass.

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Sean McDermott and the Panthers' coaching staff used Mitchell in a variety of ways. He tied for the league lead among safeties with four sacks. But the following play where he showed blitz and then dropped back caught my attention.

He starts the play off next to the linebackers and takes a step forward like he's going to blitz.

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Ryan thinks he'll have White on a deep dig, but Mitchell retreats quickly.

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The pass-rush gets home, but Mitchell does his part by catching up with White and not giving Ryan the option of going that way with the football.

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***

In man coverage, Mitchell held up well, although that aspect was tough at times to evaluate because he didn't do it a ton, and the Panthers' ferocious front seven often forced opposing QBs to get rid of the ball quickly.

Much will be made of Mitchell's poor tackling. Per PFF, his 18 missed tackles were tied for most in the NFL among safeties, and he was last in tackling efficiency. There's no question he needs to improve in that area, but from what I saw, the issue wasn't with taking bad angles, but rather sometimes going for the huge hits.

And there's a case to be made that coaching can help. Nate Allen, for example, jumped from 46th to 13th in PFF's tackling efficiency category from 2012 to 2013.

Mitchell is someone who likes to try to punish opponents. From a Charlotte Observer article back in October:

Mitchell does sometimes draw flags for his hits, which sometimes do border on being late. "Sometimes I do play on the edge," he said. "I’ve been trying to tone that back lately because I’ve been flagged a couple of times. But I can’t help it."

Said defensive end Greg Hardy of Mitchell: "A good word to describe him is ‘attack.’... He’s my type of guy. I love him. I don’t have to worry about him pulling up on the sideline. I know the play is going to get finished and if it’s not, me and Luke (Kuechly) are going to be right there. That’s three guys who play out of control."

Overall, during the 2013 regular season, Mitchell was only called for three penalties, despite his physical, aggressive style. He did get fined on a number of occasions and said the money goes right in Roger Goodell's pocket. In other words, if he does land in Philadelphia, you can be sure that Kelly will channel the old Play with emotion, don't let emotion play with you mantra at some point when discussing Mitchell.

But given his measurables, age and 2013 production, Mitchell fits a lot of what the Eagles are looking for. Of course, the Panthers see the same things and will likely make a push to hold on to him.

"I want to come back here and finish what we started, finish this the right way, with this group of men," Mitchell said following the team's playoff loss to the 49ers, per FoxSports.com. "I haven't played on a team with this type of coaches, these type of teammates probably since I was a 17 year old boy. Great group of guys and I want to finish this."

But if he does hit the market, Mitchell is someone the Eagles should take a close look at.

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  • Token

    This is what its come to. :(

    • anon

      Seriously, womp womp. Might as well of taken Goldson. Of course Carolina’s front 7 are going to make any secondary look good.

    • cliff henny

      draft and develope. cant get excited about an of these mid to lower level safety free agents, cause most are going to want contracts that have them as starters for 3yrs. hopefully wolff and draft pick have them watching from sidelines sooner rather then later. think we’re looking at guy that’ll take a chung type contract, basically only 1 guarenteed yr, can be cut or stretched to 2 if needed.

      • anon

        No one is happy with Chung, so why sign a guy that’s that level? Whatever, I’m annoyed with this whole narrative — if they don’t think our 28th ranked secondary is worth paying to upgrade find. Let’s reach for DBs in a draft that’s light on real prospects and heavy on O talent and pass rushers. Perfect.

        • cliff henny

          issue is who’s the guy in FA that’s going to change the safeties, if ward and byrd arent available. unfortunately, think the mistake was crappy reid drafting, maybe they thought philips knee would be ok, but they’ve started down this rabbit hole, it’s going to be draft and develope. least they showed with wolff it’s a possibility. for me, it takes olb/qb presser from a 10/10 to 15/10, cause every safety is better when qb has someone in his face.

          • southy

            it’s not an either/or thing. it’s both picking up a physical, journeyman-type guy in FA, and giving yourself the flexibility to not reach in the draft. we’ve seen this episode before.

            props to sheil for learning from last year and going out and finding a guy that’s not a big FA name but might just fit the bill.

        • Clamdigger

          Who said they were going to reach for a safety in the draft? Ward and Byrd are probably staying put. The Eagles may draft a DB in the 5th round again for all we know. Just because it’s a need doesn’t mean you attempt to address it regardless of the opportunities to do so.

          That said, neither Dix or Pryor would be reaches at 22.

    • Richard Colton

      He only looks good because Sean McDermott is the greatest defensive mind of his or any other generation. Seriously, he’s so good, I’d let him coach my O-line.

      Bitter. not a good look for me.

      • GEAGLE

        Rather have Cool ass Billy Dee!!!
        ..
        Remember what I typed every day this time last year? “Philly will fall in love with Billy Davis!” :)

        • Guest

          -__-

      • BleedGreenJames

        DC as OL coach? That’s daring…

  • DEBO 215

    TJ Ward please and thank you.

    • Adam

      Browns are sitting with a ton of cap space.. top guy at a premium position.. doubt they let him walk.

  • Ale (Brazil)

    Yeah, he fits our pockets and a glaring need, but it’s obviously not the impact player we’d like to see patrolling our deep middle. But is quite a name to keep an eye on. I already said that before: i’d be happy with Byrdman/Ward the same way i’d be with one or two quality rookie safeties and competition brought with that “high batting average” mentality.

    • anon

      Rookies will make mistakes, they will have no on the field mentor to help them get in the right position (nate is basically a second year safety in my eyes). In a year where everyone things we should be making a run it won’t be fun watching blown coverage lead to an L when it counts.

      I understand there’s not a lot of options this year but FO knew that (or should have known it) last year when there were more DBs on the market. If we would have gotten quality last year we wouldn’t be going back trying to find talent this year and using possibly a first round pick or overpaying for a mid-level new guy. The more I look at it more the more this feels mis-managed. Am i being too harsh?

      • GEAGLE

        Dude, last years safety market was just as bad,,so bad that Goldson got a kings ransom..now you can say we should have drafted another safety early last year in a better safety draft, or that we should have just ponied up the draft picks and traded for Byrd…but we can’t fault the FO for last years safety market, as much as I despise Chung and Phillips, there really wasn’t many solutions on the market, thus Goldson and Quinn got PAID!!
        ..
        Depressing isn’t it?

  • mtn_green

    Eagles will sign one or two of the mid-level safeties. Williams and fletcher worked pretty well for two FA mid level pickups.

    • anon

      Really? I think for me it’s hard to tell because our schedule was so easy in the second half of the season. They were terrible in first 4 games and the Vikings game. Good against Chicago but it’s unclear how hard they were playing. Good against Dallas in final game — but that was no Romo. AZ I’ll call a wash.

      I’d say they were mediocre but fundamentally sound and good in the redzone.

      • OldDocRoss

        You mean it was unclear how hard Chicago were playing?

        That was “win and you’re in” for them. They were playing hard, they just got blown away.

        • anon

          Yeah but after GB won (or lost i can’t remember) they knew they had the GB game which they eventually lost. I remember there was some talk of their coach resting players.

          It was a domination either way — we played great, but not sure how much fight was in that dog.

          • OldDocRoss

            If Chicago beat us, their game against GB would have been meaningless. The worst they could finish if they beat us was 9-7. Best GB could do (and did) was 8-7-1.

            If there was talk of Chicago resting players it was from morons. You shouldn’t listen to morons.

  • anon

    SK / TM keep these coming – it’s good to have an understanding of what’s out there — the good and the bad.

  • Mrkraxx

    No problem with bringing him in… But lol the picture set where in one frame you have him faking blitz and the next frame you are showing how fast he gets back… He is 2 yds from where he was in the other pic. Just funny. Maybe take a frame or two later..

    Feels like a reach. But bring him in to compete. Big hitter with speed, agreed

  • GEAGLE

    Can’t figure out if we would have him on our list, but he won’t be our top target I can promise that. He is basically a physical Nate Allen in that he sucked his entire life until his contract year and I prefer staying away from those types..He is more of a hitter then a cover guy, and I think we are more concerned with cover types then hitters(just the impression I get)..

    The 3 guys I’m not sure how we will view is Whitner and bathea for age, and this kid.
    ..
    Delmas, Clemons and major wright and Roman Harper I completely cross off our list because I Genuinly believe we won’t even consider them..

    Jenkins and Corey Graham are the two FA DBs(Corey replaces Colt as our ST leader) that I expect to see us add, along with Alex Carrington for the DL(pass rusher, not run stuffer!!)..FA OLB will be determined by whether we can’t to dump BG or not. If we are ok cutting him or trading him, then I can see us going after MJ or Everson Griffin..Orakpo will get a kings ransom

  • GEAGLE

    Seahawks are going to cut Red Bryant…dude does a ton of the he dirty work for them

    • cliff henny

      now this is a batting average vet i can get behind.

      • GEAGLE

        Yes but he help out in the run game, and we view that as a strength that we don’t have to do anything to improve other then let Cox and Logan gain strength and experience. I know fans “think” we are looking to improve our run defense, due to a ridiculous over reaction to the saints game, but I’m expecting the FA DL we add to be an interior pass rusher who can rotate with Curry and Cox as an interior pass rusher in our Nickle…that “batting average” veteran IMO n would be Alex Carrington coming off his rookie contract with the Bills. Injured for most of last year(pec) so he shouldn’t be that expensive, but he was highly efficient as a pass rusher in 2012…Bryant is a guy who is probably going to start declining soon! Carrington is a guy who’s best ball is still ahead of him..a Bradley Fletcher of the DL if you will…6’5, 305lbs, a nice arsenal of pass rush moves!

        I’d be pretty damn surprised if I found out we didn’t make him an offer or ATleast talk til is agent. HE is up there on my expectation meter
        ..
        Patriots tried to sign Red in 2012, people are expecting Bellicek to target him again since they are always in Super Bowl or bust mode. I suspect we want to add younger players who will grow with us. if not Alex, it will be a name like him that fans do not know and assume we are getting a bum

        • GEAGLE

          Not a starter, but a quality member of a rotation..he would probably jump ahead of both Curry and Kruger as our top reserve

    • Weapon Y

      I would love to sign Red Bryant. He is the perfect 2-gap defensive end. Then again, I’m in love with the Seattle style of the 4-3 Under. I’m not ready to bench Cox or Thornton, though. And I don’t know who would play nose. Thornton did a few times last year. I’d consider the idea, but Chip might prefer to let his young d-linemen develop as starters instead.

  • http://www.corcommunity.com/ theycallmerob

    bleh. we’ve entered the “may as well re-sign Allen” zone. Keep the young guy already familiar with our scheme than these other semi-young, slightly skilled, red-flag filled CV- types. He actually looked decent with Wolff those games together, considering all the new parts everywhere else.
    Hope those two grow, draft 1 maybe 2 kids and replace the Chung/Coleman/Colt triad with a new face. Oh, and get a better pass rush that will instantly improve all four DBs

  • EaglefaninAZ

    No. Please no. Thank you.

  • daggolden

    Rumors are that the Eagles will pursue Malcolm Jenkins is picking up steam.

  • Anders

    I think Mitchell would be a good FS type to go with Allen as the SS.

  • Scott J

    Eagles should work out a trade for Byrd. He won’t be happy being franchised 2 years in a row, and I’m sure he wants out of Buffalo, so a long term deal with them is inprobable.

  • MoreRecentTimes

    We’re all going to shake our heads in despair as Nate Allen finally emerges as a legitimate NFL safety in another city.