When the Jets selected T Max Mitchell No. 111 out of Louisiana in April's NFL Draft, his evolution from starter for the Rajin' Cajuns to a potential NFL starter was believed to be a work in progress.
"We initially thought it's going to take a year or maybe two," head coach Robert Saleh said.
Five months later that plan is on the cutting-room floor.
Pressed into duty because of injuries on the offensive line, Mitchell has become the Green & White's starting right tackle, starting the first three games of the regular season. Saleh is impressed with the rookie.
"With regards to technique and strength, he has just been ascending at a rapid level," he said. "Which is pretty cool."
At the start of camp Mitchell was a rookie low on the depth chart. Veteran George Fant started at left tackle and T Mekhi Becton was on the right side. Then, Becton went down with a season-ending knee injury. The Jets signed LT Duane Brown and Fant went back to the right side.
Days before the regular-season opener, Brown landed on the injured reserve and Fant moved again. Mitchell found himself looking across the line of scrimmage at the Baltimore Ravens' defensive front in Week 1.
"Coming in, I knew I was going to have to work for my chance," Mitchell said. "And that chance just so happened to come around a little sooner than expected. And I am just going out there trying, working my hardest and trying to work my tail off."
See the top photos from Wednesday's practice leading up to the Steelers game.
Mitchell made 37 starts in four seasons for Louisiana and was named first-team All-Sun Belt as a senior. Saleh said it is difficult to evaluate offensive linemen because of the way college offenses are constructed and Mitchell was no different.
"You saw a lot of athleticism, but you just weren't sure from a technical standpoint how he would respond coming from where he came from," Saleh said. "It was just a different world."
In his first three starts, Mitchell has played all 232 offensive snaps – second-most of any rookie O-Linemen and the most among all rookie tackles.
"From a technique standpoint, he's a lot stronger than we thought he'd be and he's only going to get stronger," Saleh said. "I said in training camp, he's a lot further along than we thought he'd be and he's going to be a very good player for a very long time."
Mitchell has not let early success go to his head.
"Regarding the [Pittsburgh] game, I think I have just been able to play a little bit faster every week," Mitchell said. "There are things that pop out to me that I need to work on. And the good things, they just don't stick around in my head. I just get stuck on those things I need to improve on. … Just starting to improve by leaps and strides."