BEREA: There’s no shortage of challenges awaiting Browns defensive end Jayme Mitchell as he adjusts to his new territory.
Mitchell switched from the left side of the line to the right side last week in the Browns’ 27-19 win over the Indianapolis Colts. Browns coach Pat Shurmur said the swap was made because rookie defensive end Jabaal Sheard is better on the left side, and Mitchell plays “equally well” in both spots.
The move puts Mitchell, who’s in his fifth NFL season, in an unfamiliar position. He has played left end since his college days at the University of Mississippi. On the right side, Mitchell won’t have to face the combination of a tight end and a tackle as often. But every week he will encounter the opposing team’s left tackle.
As offensive linemen go, the left tackle is usually considered the cream of the crop, especially in terms of pass protection. When the Browns (1-1) host the Miami Dolphins (0-2) at 1 p.m. today, Mitchell will face Jake Long, one of league’s elite left tackles.
“I love competition,” Mitchell said. “If they consider those guys the best, that’s where I want to be. I want to line up against them and play against the best. It’s gonna be fun and challenging. I’m a competitor, so I love it.”
In late July, the 6-foot-6, 285-pound Mitchell signed a two-year contract to stay with the Browns after they acquired him last season in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings. Browns General Manager Tom Heckert wanted to retain Mitchell because of his skills as a pass rusher and ability to fit well within defensive coordinator Dick Jauron’s 4-3 scheme.
But before Mitchell, 27, can show the Browns everything he’s able to do, he might need some time to adapt to his new surroundings on the right side. For an end, switching sides is akin to a right-handed person trying to write with his or her left hand.
“Working your technique from that side, flipping your hips, getting toward the quarterback, it’s all muscle memory,” Mitchell said. “Focusing on watching the ball from that side and watching the tackle at the same time, it’s different.”
The 6-7, 317-pound Long won’t make Mitchell’s life any easier. Long, 26, has been selected for the Pro Bowl in each season since the Dolphins drafted him first overall in 2008.
“He’s a great tackle,” Mitchell said. “[He’s an] athletic, long, big guy, a physical guy. It’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to it as a great challenge. I get to play against one of the best guys in the business.”
Mitchell was on the field with Long early last season in the Dolphins’ 14-10 win over the Vikings, but the two players never went head to head. Long, though, has an idea about what to expect.
“Just from watching film on him, [he’s a] very long-armed guy,” Long said of Mitchell. “He likes to rush the passer. He does a good job of getting outside and taking a guy’s edge and working hard. It’s gonna be a challenge, and I’m excited for it.”
Mitchell might be able to surprise some in his matchup against Long, who missed all of the Dolphins’ preseason games this year with a sore left knee. Long suffered the injury during the Dolphins’ 2010 preseason finale, but he has not missed a regular-season game despite having arthroscopic surgery.
“I hate missing time,” Long said. “I hate missing practice. I hate missing games, and I’m gonna do everything in my power to never miss. I just don’t like it. I’ve always been one of those guys that if I can play, even if I’m banged up or hurt or whatever, I’m gonna try to play and play to the best of my ability.”
Long said he has continued to rehabilitate and is feeling better every day. Still, he allowed a sack last week against the Houston Texans.
Of course, Mitchell hopes to add to Long’s pain today. He’s due to get his first sack as a member of the Browns.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://browns.ohio.com. Follow the Browns on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ABJ_Browns and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.