For Mike Mitchell the last chance saloon has a name and it’s called 2012. This year is make or break for Mitchell as his Raider career comes to the crossroads. The man that pretty much bumped the DJ table that was ESPN’s draft coverage back in ’09, effectively scratching the record and putting the party on pause, has yet to firmly establish himself in the NFL after three lackluster seasons filled with some memorable moments but nothing that has defined his career.
When Al Davis topped his Darrius Heyward-Beyjaw dropper with the Mitchell stunner it was widely accepted that the iconic owner had finally gone completely off the deep end. Last season saw DHB show real signs of life as his breakout year displayed #1 receiver potential.
Mitchell is still waiting to have that type of an impact.
Caught between positions, coaches and a completely undefined role the hard-hitting Mitchell has never settled in during his time in the NFL. He’s also had to deal with injury issues that have plagued him from his first OTA with the franchise.
There’s no doubt Mitchell has proven he can play. All those draft day jokes have fallen by the wayside considering the number of safeties in the ’09 draft that have flamed out of the league. Still, there has got to be real concern as the East Bay scholarship program has been abolished by Reggie McKenzie.
The real irony is that every year we seem to have this same discussion.
Oakland enters the offseason with more questions than answers in the secondary. Mitchell is pegged as a player that must breakout and inevitably an injury of some sort prevents him from fully participating in camp which then carries over into the regular season. So far that trend is holding true once again with Mitchell on the mend from offseason knee surgery.
Of course despite all his injuries and inconsistent reps, Mitchell has made plays when given the opportunity. It’s not uncommon to see #34 closing in on an open receiver managing to lay a lick that prevents a completion. He’s got a real nose for the ball and plays with a massive chip on his shoulder.
So will this finally be the year Mitchell puts it all together and announces himself as the fierce hitter roaming the last line of defense we’ve all been waiting for? Or will it be another vanishing act with occasional guest appearances?
Whatever Mitchell does in 2012 it had better be memorable. McKenzie might have already turned the page but that doesn’t mean other teams aren’t watching. In the NFL every Sunday is an audition.