New York Jets rookie Max Mitchell got the start at right tackle in the season opener
One of the most notable storylines of the New York Jets’ season opener was the messy offensive tackle situation. After injuries to Mekhi Becton and Duane Brown, rookie Max Mitchell got the start at right tackle in Week 1. The fourth-round pick from Louisiana was thrown directly into the fire against an aggressive Baltimore Ravens defense.
Expectations were low for Mitchell. As a Day 3 rookie coming from a mid-major school who did not practice with the first-team offensive line until the week ahead of his first game, it was tough to picture Mitchell having anything other than a rough day.
Against all odds, the rookie went out and surpassed expectations. I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw from him on film.
That’s not to say that Mitchell was amazing. I wouldn’t even say he was “good” or “average”.
However, I do not think he was “terrible”, either. I would classify Mitchell’s performance as “below average” by starting tackle standards, which is far beyond what many people expected and a great springboard for the 22-year-old to build off of.
Here are a bunch of the most notable plays I saw from Mitchell on film, both good and bad.
Max Mitchell film
Mitchell wears #61 and lines up at right tackle.
Some good and bad here from Mitchell. I like the lateral mobility and the inside leverage that he gains. But veteran defensive end Calais Campbell is able to erase Mitchell’s positional advantage by pulling him forward to easily shed the block. Campbell gets in on the tackle.
Mitchell bounces back against Campbell with a good rep in protection. Campbell goes for the club/swim combo move to the inside but Mitchell shuts it down, keeping him far away from the pocket. Campbell eventually gets a hit on Flacco but that’s no fault of Mitchell, as it’s Laken Tomlinson and George Fant who are responsible for forcing Flacco into Mitchell’s man.
Excellent rep by Mitchell against veteran edge rusher Justin Houston. Tight end C.J. Uzomah blocks down on the 5-technique defensive end (who is over Mitchell’s outside shoulder) while Mitchell kicks out to take the edge. Mitchell creates plenty of lateral movement against Houston.
Another nice run play from Mitchell. He works inside and helps out Alijah Vera-Tucker with Campbell, creating some push to the inside. Mitchell then comes off the block and works back outside to seal the edge. A hole is created in the B-gap, but Michael Carter is unable to get there.
There were a few instances in which pre-snap movement caused Mitchell to miss an assignment off the edge.
Here, the Jets’ motion of Braxton Berrios prompts Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen (#6) to slide further outside and closer to the line of scrimmage, which should alert Mitchell that he needs to be aware of Queen. Instead, Mitchell begins the play by working inside and is late to recognize Queen, allowing him to blow up the play in the backfield.
Solid protection rep from Mitchell. Houston looks for the speed rush coming out of a wide-9 alignment. Mitchell sends him up the arc and past the quarterback.
Mitchell with another stout rep in protection. Tyler Conklin helps Mitchell out by passing the defensive end into Mitchell’s grasp, and Mitchell does the rest.
Fantastic rep from Mitchell on the back side. Already possessing inside leverage on his man pre-snap due to the alignment, Mitchell works vertically and gets his hips turned outside to seal the defensive end out of the play.
Now we see the opposite outcome from Mitchell on a back side run block. Mitchell comes off the line with wide hands and the 4i-technique defensive tackle does a great job of immediately getting his outside arm into Mitchell’s chest, establishing complete control. Mitchell is plowed into the backfield and his man makes the stop on Breece Hall.
Nothing too flashy here, but Mitchell keeps Odafe Oweh in front of him while protecting on an island.
Mitchell paves the way for a 14-yard Breece Hall run. Great lateral movement against the outside linebacker.
Nice stunt pickup from Mitchell and Vera-Tucker. Mitchell drops back and keeps his eyes on the edge defender, but he also leaves his inside hand extended to feel out if the DT is coming his way (great show of awareness). Once Mitchell feels that Vera-Tucker is passing off the DT to him, he turns his attention inside and picks up the DT. Good pass-off from Vera-Tucker.
Like I mentioned earlier, here is another example of pre-snap motion causing Mitchell to miss an assignment.
Berrios’s movement causes Queen (#6) to slide outside and become the new EMOL (end man on line of scrimmage), replacing #99 and likely making him Mitchell’s new assignment. Mitchell doesn’t seem to recognize Queen’s movement at all, as he still blocks #99 and lets Queen fly by untouched. By the time Mitchell recognizes Queen, it’s too late.
Mitchell does a good job in protection against Oweh. Conklin helps Mitchell out with a chip on Oweh before getting into his route. Oweh tries to bend the corner on Mitchell but the rookie is ready, sending him past the quarterback.
Not a good job by Mitchell against this stunt. Mitchell’s man (#60) drops into his coverage, leaving him without an assignment, so he turns his head inside and looks for work. That’s good. However, Mitchell fails to notice #93 looping toward him. Mitchell tries to help Vera-Tucker and is oblivious to #93. Mitchell notices him late and does a decent job of recovering to buy Flacco a little more time, but #93 eventually gets home to pressure Flacco.
Strong work in a one-on-one against Oweh. Mitchell catches Oweh’s chest with his inside hand. Oweh tries to swipe Mitchell’s hand off of him and convert into a rip move to the outside, but Mitchell shuts that down. Oweh then tries to work into an inside spin, and Mitchell shuts that down too.
Oweh goes for a bull rush against Mitchell. The rookie does a solid job of absorbing it and anchoring down.
As you’ve probably noticed, the Jets definitely tried to help Mitchell out in this game using the tight ends. On this play, just like in many plays we’ve watched so far, Uzomah forces Oweh to widen out extremely far away from the pocket, buying plenty of time and space to help Mitchell out. Mitchell then shuts down Oweh’s outside rush and sends him past the quarterback.
Shaky rep here from Mitchell. He oversets to the outside and Oweh makes him pay, using a double-swipe move to beat him inside. Fortunately, Vera-Tucker is there to slow Oweh down before he gets home on Flacco. But Oweh bested Mitchell this time after a short win streak by the rook.
Oweh gets another win against Mitchell to the inside. Mitchell whiffs on his punch and Oweh responds with an inside spin to get through the B-gap. Vera-Tucker can’t save Mitchell this time as Oweh hits Flacco’s arm while he throws.
Yet another play in which Oweh beats Mitchell inside. Oweh sells upfield and gets Mitchell to open up to the outside. He then stabs his inside arm into Mitchell’s chest and tosses him aside, working back inside through the B-gap. It’s an example of the strength concerns that were commonly levied upon Mitchell when he was drafted.
Oweh gets some pressure on Flacco, possibly contributing to why Flacco misses his throw to an open Garrett Wilson in the end zone. In fairness to Mitchell, Oweh appears to possibly get away with a hands to the face penalty, but the technique wasn’t ideal nonetheless.
I think this is a fitting play to end the review with. It highlights two of the things Mitchell needs to work on the most if he is going to become a good NFL starter. Number one, he’s got to continue getting stronger so he doesn’t get tossed around like this. Number two, he must work on refraining from oversetting to the outside so he does not leave himself vulnerable to getting beat inside.
An up-and-down debut for Max Mitchell: Which is better than anyone could have hoped
Max Mitchell’s first NFL start was a mixed bag. But when you consider the circumstances, that is a very positive outcome for him and the Jets. Mitchell easily could have had a disastrous game in which he looked lost and blew up the Jets’ entire offense. Instead, he held his own quite often – more often than his veteran peers, in fact. (I’m looking at you, George Fant and Laken Tomlinson.)
One respectable start from Mitchell isn’t enough to guarantee that he is ready to play at a starter-caliber level throughout his rookie season. Maybe he gets exposed next week by Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. He must continue building before we can be sure of anything.
If he does build upon his debut performance, though, the Jets offense might be able to stay afloat with a first-year Mitchell in the lineup after all.