Spotlighting one Texans rookie on each day of training camp:
Texans coach Gary Kubiak was impressed with defensive tackle Earl Mitchell in the Texans' spring practices, calling the third-round draft pick from Arizona a high-effort player who could "contribute a lot" as a rookie.
Through four days of training camp, Mitchell (6-2, 300) has done nothing to diminish Kubiak's enthusiasm.
"He has been a very flashy player," Kubiak said on Monday afternoon. "He's made a lot of plays. Quick, strong, looks like a heck of a draft choice. We need somebody in there to get active to help us to get in our rotation, and he sure looks like he has a chance. It's very early, so we'll keep going, but I've been impressed with him."
Like 2009 second-round pick Connor Barwin, Mitchell enters the league with little experience on defense. Barwin, who had 4.5 sacks as a rookie, played tight end for three years at Cincinnati before moving to defensive end as a senior. Mitchell was a tight end, fullback and H-back in his first two years at Arizona. He moved to defense as a junior and went on to start 25 consecutive games.
Now, Mitchell finds himself pushing Amobi Okoye and the rest of the Texans' defensive tackles for playing time.
"It's good to come out here and learn and compete and continue to try and make the transition to playing defense," Mitchell said. "There's a lot of people competing and a lot of people playing the same position. We're all just trying to come out here to play in certain packages, so I'm learning to play inside with (Shaun) Cody, Antonio (Smith) and learning from everybody. I'm just trying to come out here and learn the playbook and get better."
Mitchell said that even offensive linemen have been giving him pointers, including right tackle Eric Winston. Like Kubiak, Winston likes what he has seen out of the talented rookie.
"He's built in a way that's kind of tough to stop if you're explosive," Winston said. "He's not real tall. He's not a big defensive tackle guy, but he's got a low center of gravity. I think if he listens to (defensive line) coach (Bill) Kollar and he really uses it well, he's going to be a tough player to stop because he's explosive off the ball. It's hard to get under him. He's going to be able to get some push."
A graduate of North Shore High School, which is less than 20 miles from Reliant Stadium, Mitchell has been relishing the chance to play in his hometown as he learns the ropes of his position and the NFL.
"I can remember the first time I picked up my varsity jersey and shorts, and I get the same feeling every day when I come here and put my jersey on," he said.