Miami-Crush Monday: Earl Mitchell Demonstrates the Power of “The Suh Effect”
Upon one’s first glance at this year’s Dolphins’ team, it would be easy to proclaim ten sacks for Suh and Wake each, leading the team to a top five defensive ranking. While that could be possible, Dolphins’ fans have watched carefully, and are observing that Suh helps others more than he does himself. Yes, Suh will have a statistical impact. But the effects of the league’s best defensive tackle will be spread across the entire unit. On Saturday night against Atlanta, Earl Mitchell demonstrated this perfectly.
In his first four seasons with the Houston Texans, Earl Mitchell was above average. However he never managed to escalate past that point. A third round pick out of Arizona, Mitchell did what he had to do. He never really did much more.
Last season, Mitchell seemed to bring that same level of play to Miami, and was a solid contributor on the defensive line behind Jared Odrick and Randy Starks. This season, Mitchell was named one of the team’s starting defensive tackles. One would think that after five seasons of being slightly above average, we had seen the peak of Mitchell’s ability. Based on his performance on Saturday night, that assumption was incorrect.
We are then forced to ask, “What changed?” What is making the difference for Mitchell, allowing him to show flashes of special ability at his position? I can tell you exactly what changed. Ndamukong Suh.
We all knew heading into the preseason that Ndamukong Suh would make the entire defense better. It is worth noting that when I say entire, I mean every single player. Linebackers? They have wide open gaps in front of them to rush and work against runners. Cornerbacks? They have to hold coverage for much less time now that quarterbacks have Suh coming up the middle. Safeties? Younger quarterbacks will panic and telegraph throws. While this will all help Miami exponentially, the defensive lineman will see the greatest impact from Suh’s arrival.
Suh requires a double-team on every single play. In 2015, you will rarely see him with one blocker. When you do see one blocker assigned to Suh, chances are you’ll see a quarterback on the ground about three seconds later. The extra blocking delegated to Ndamukong Suh will mean easier access to the quarterback for Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon, and yes, Earl Mitchell.
Mitchell will be an even greater beneficiary of Suh’s presence than most. If the defensive line has Suh and Wake both off of one side, Vernon and Mitchell will get an easier blocking assignment, and the play will move on their direction. There is no reason for an offense to run in the direction of the wrecking-ball known as Ndamukong Suh. This will lead to plenty of opportunities for Mitchell to clean up shop, which we saw him do against Atlanta.
Mitchell was wrecking havoc in the backfield, and hindered the Falcons’ air and ground attacks. The stats sheet (which shows just one sack) does not do Mitchell’s performance justice. He has a force, moving back offensive linemen into their own ball carriers with ease. He and Vernon seemed to make every single play, and didn’t give up an inch to the Falcons’ offense.
Due to the flow of the offense in Mitchell’s direction, he was put in the spotlight and did not disappoint. Yes, Ndamukong Suh helps other lineman make plays, but Earl Mitchell deserves credit for a truly dominant performance. He was able to handle any blocker thrown in his path, and even showed athleticism moving down field to make a tackle in the first quarter on a pass play. Yes, Earl Mitchell caught up to Devin Hester. Okay, Hester was already slowing down, but let’s give the big guy this one.
Mitchell seemed to enter the zone on Saturday night, and it’s a shame we didn’t see more of that last season. He has always been a good run stopper, but last night he displayed athleticism we had not seen in his previous appearances. He was working well in close areas, and showed very impressive quickness for a man who weighs almost 300 pounds. Mitchell was clearly playing with more heart and effort than anyone else on the defense this past Saturday, and Ndamukong Suh or not, he deserves to be recognized for it.
This season, Dolphins’ fans will most likely be treated to more of these “shooting star” performances thanks to the quantity of playmakers on the defense. Offenses simply can’t account for everyone, so players will have the opportunity to make outstanding plays. This isn’t taking anything away from the players who cant replicate outstanding performances every week. Not everyone can be Suh or Wake. Some players simply get in a groove and roll with it. Last night, Earl Mitchell was in a groove. This is a lesson to Dolphins’ fans heading into this season. There will be some incredible standout performances, from some very unlikely locations.
Tonight’s belonged to Earl Mitchell. But the NFL is has a very short memory, and great performances last less than a day before it is time to move onto the next task at hand. So Miami, let’s see who’s on deck for next week.
Oh, one more thing. All of these highlights you’ve seen in this article? Yeah, that only took one half.
Check out our Miami-Crush Monday articles from earlier in the preseason here:
Preseason Week 1- Zach Vigil
Preseason Week 2- Ryan Tannehill