In Mike Nolan's scheme, starting safeties Thomas DeCoud and William Moore are viewed as hybrid safeties, players that can interchange between both free and strong safety and not miss a beat.
It's a great luxury to have on defense because it helps disguise what the defense is trying to do. But if you've got hybrid starters, you need backups that are capable of stepping in and accomplishing the same thing.
Enter Charles Mitchell.
While there's a strong competition at safety between this year's sixth-round pick Mitchell, Shann Schillinger and Chris Hope, Mitchell has impressed the staff and his teammates early on by coming out and playing a little better than expected. Moore sees all three as potential starters in the league and he likes the determination he's seen from the young rookie.
"Coming into OTAs, he was doing great picking the playbook up," Moore said. "During training camp, he's been rolling. I like that. I told him in the classroom that he's doing an excellent job staying after, watching film. His progression as a player shows maturity. He's been making plays on the ball. He's going to step in and play. I know that."
Mitchell thinks the role he played at Mississippi State contributed to his immediate post-draft description of an "in-the-box" style safety that is a sure tackler. It's a description often used for a player that may not have the best skills when the ball is in the air. The rookie safety says that's the style he played mostly in college and he didn't always get a chance to make those kinds of plays.
Despite that he had six passes defensed during his senior season and in camp he's been seen coming down with a break up or an interception. In addition to his two tackles against the Ravens last week, he added one pass break up then as well.
Since Mitchell arrived in rookie minicamp in May, he says he's been switching between the two safety positions, learning both. He believes he's capable of filling that role behind DeCoud and Moore.
"I got here and they put me at free safety and I was able to be around the ball a lot and have made some plays on the ball," Mitchell said. "I feel like I'm a hybrid player. I can play both. When the ball comes my way, I'm confident in myself that I can make the play."