The Houston Texans never considered putting Earl Mitchell in the offensive backfield as a fullback because they had Vonta Leach on the team and he was a Pro Bowl player. But when Mitchell arrived in Miami as a free agent last year, it wasn't long before he was throwing the idea of him playing on offense to coaches.
"I would kind of make jokes here and there to (offensive coordinator Bill) Lazor," Mitchell said. "I'd say, 'Hey man, if you need a lead blocker I got you.' One day he just came to me and said, 'Hey, um, we've got a plan for you today.' And I took it as a joke but they actually put me in at practice and it grew from there."
So how big is this Earl Mitchell at fullback thing?
He's done it in two of the Dolphins five games so far -- at Jacksonville and at Tennessee.
When he did it against the Jaguars, former teammate Jared Odrick joked that Mitchell should maybe try to renegotiate his contract. When he did it against the Titans, there wasn't quite the same amount of comedy involved.
"I think a lot of guys were surprised when I came around the corner lead blocking on that outside zone play," Mitchell said. "It's cool."
Expect more of Mitchell as a two-way player the rest of this season. Yes, he remains a starting defensive tackle. But he's also proven to be valuable on offense for a team that doesn't carry a fullback on the roster.
"It's definitely a little bit more time required," Mitchell said. "There's more stuff on my plate. I'm kind of trying to squeeze in more meeting times and pulling coaches to the side and stuff like that. But we're all working together and it's encouraging for the guys to be all in on this because it's taking extra effort for the coaching staff and myself to figure out how can I go in on offense and who's going in for me on defense when I'm not in at practice. It's definitely a together thing as far as me helping the team."
So far the thing has been all about blocking. But Mitchell leaked out of the backfield on a pass play against the Titans last week and was actually open for a potential first down if quarterback Ryan Tannehill had seen him.
Tannehill instead rolled in the opposite direction but the possibility of Mitchell catching a pass, improbable as that seems, is a reality.
So how does a defensive tackle by trade weigh a sack versus catching a touchdown pass? Which would be more valuable to him?
"I mean both," Mitchell said. "Both are equally exciting. You help the team. If I could do both in one game that would be a memorable experience. That's really what I'm looking forward to one day.
"By the time I'm done playing this game I want to be recognized as a true football player and my teammates will respect that. It'll be a great memory for me to one day look back and be able to tell people I got to play both sides of the ball."