By Steve Corkran
Sunday, August 5th, 2012 at 1:53 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Mike Mitchell isn’t afraid to look in the mirror. He is comfortable in his own skin, living the life he wants to lead and staying true to his upbringing in Kentucky, where his father taught him the value of hard work.
Yet, deep down inside, Mitchell covets an opportunity to be an every-down player, someone who sees the field more than as a situational player and on special teams.
“There’s no doubt in my mind, there’s a lot of teams that I would be starting for,” Mitchell said, “but we have these things called contracts, and mine isn’t up yet.”
Mitchell makes it clear that he loves playing for the Raiders. He’s just talking about the frustration that comes with being stuck behind starting safeties Tyvon Branch and Michael Huff.
For now, Mitchell is biding his time, working on his craft and finding a way to make the Raiders defense better. If that means playing a backup role, so be it.
“I love those guys,” Mitchell said of Branch and Huff. “They’re great dudes. We just do a good job of pushing each other every day. I try to make Ty and Huff better every day and them vice versa. Without saying too much, there’s a little bit of politics that goes into everything, but we’re just trying to make each other better. That doesn’t affect our friendship. We’re all going to get what we deserve.”
As for the defense, Mitchell said he and his defensive mates are going to get plenty of opportunities to make plays in first-year coordinator Jason Tarver’s multiple scheme.
“I really love the defense right now, and I’m not just saying that,” Mitchell said.
In part, Mitchell loves Tarver’s defense because it resembles the one he played in at Ohio, when he was a heat-seeking safety bearing down on receivers and ballcarriers every game.
In other words, Tarver’s system is very safety-friendly. Enough so to make Mitchell’s eyes widen and his voice to quicken when talking about what he envisions happening.
“It gives the safeties a lot of freedom, a lot of top-down room, so you will see some big hits because we’re always coming down on the ball, you never know where we’re coming from, we’re getting a chance to blitz,” Mitchell said. “I love this defense. I can’t say that enough.”
Raiders coach Dennis Allen has singled out Mitchell more than once early on in camp for his impressive play. Mitchell flashed several times the first three days, and he has been nothing short of standout so far.
“He’s got some speed, he’s got some talent,” Allen said. “Obviously, he’s a little bit behind in terms of knowing the scheme and knowing the system but for the first couple of days of seeing him out here, no pads on, he’s done a nice job.”
Mitchell missed some time during the offseason workouts because of a knee injury. However, he is at 100 percent and making a case for more playing time.
Mitchell said he still doesn’t have a firm grasp of how he is going to be used this season. He is quite certain that the Raiders defense is going to flourish.
“Whatever role the coaches decide for me, that’s the role that I’m going to play,” Mitchell said. “I just know that the first couple of days that we’ve had a chance to play football, I’ve been making a pretty decent amount of plays in this defense. I love this scheme. Coach Tarver, it’s unbelievable, we’re coming from everywhere. I’m not trying to give away too much detail, but the way everything works, man, top-5 defense.”