It was the first day of offseason weightlifting for the Miami Dolphins, so the newcomers needed to impress their new teammates, and the old heads needed to mark their territory.
Randy Starks, a two-time Pro Bowler who has spent the past five seasons as the Dolphins' starting defensive lineman, witnesses Mitchell's impressive set and raises the ante, putting 415 pounds on the bar, and knocks them down.
The bar has been raised.
"Starks is so used to being the big dog, even though he's been in the league 11 years he always feels like he has to prove something," said second-year defensive tackle A.J. Francis, as he chronicles the weight room antics of this summer. "That's just the way Randy is. He's always going to say, 'This is my yard and it is going to be my yard until somebody takes it from me.'¿"
That story perfectly illustrates the Dolphins' offseason, which features newcomers such as Mitchell, Louis Delmas, Cortland Finnegan, and rookies JaWuan James and Jarvis Landry laboring to impress their teammates, and holdovers including Starks and company pushing back to set the tone, mark their turf.
The end result is supposed to be a better team, and the Dolphins certainly hope the infusion of free agents and rookies to a team that finished 8-8 last season will transform the 2014 squad into a winning organization that reaches the postseason for the first time since the 2008 season.
This is the first time in six years that the Dolphins organization has been led by someone not in former czar Bill Parcells' circle of trust.
Joe Philbin replaced Tony Sparano two seasons ago, and Jeff Ireland was dismissed as Miami's general manager at the end of last season, ending his six-year tenure of terror in the Dolphins front office.
Former Tampa Bay executive Dennis Hickey was hired to replace Ireland and has spent the past five months addressing many of Miami's glaring issues.
To analyze how Hickey performed it is important to understand the problem areas the Dolphins had in 2013, and dissect the solutions being proposed.
The Dolphins were mediocre on offense for yet another season, and the team needs to score more than last year's 19.8 points per game. That's where new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who spent last season as an understudy to Eagles coach Chip Kelly, comes in. Lazor has spent all offseason installing a replica of Kelly's innovative spread offense in Miami.
The Dolphins hope to push the pace consistently, spread the field not just vertically but horizontally, and use motions to create breakdowns on defense.
Keep in mind the Dolphins held a 6-1 record last season in games in which they scored 23 or more points. The NFL average for scoring last season was 23.4 points per game. So if the Dolphins' offense simply becomes average, and the defense stays status quo, the team should be in good shape.
However, plenty of that offensive success depends on getting Ryan Tannehill to become a more consistent quarterback in his third season as an NFL starter. Tannehill has shown flashes of brilliance at times, but he's also soiled himself in critical games the past two seasons. If you need an example, re-watch the final two games of last season, when the Dolphins scored all of seven points with a playoff berth on the line against the Bills (45.6 passer rating) and Jets (42.1).
Keep in mind the Dolphins had a 6-2 record when Tannehill had an 85.0 or better passer rating, which is around the rating at which the league's second-tier quarterbacks — Andy Dalton, Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford — perform.
But no quarterback can survive without an offensive line to protect him and a running game to balance out the offense. Tannehill had neither last season. The Dolphins allowed a franchise-record 58 sacks last season, and the running game produced 1,440 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns.
No quarterback got sacked more than Tannehill last year, and only five teams rushed for fewer yards than the Dolphins.
Hickey tried to address both those issues through free agency and the draft. The Dolphins signed Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert to a five-year, $47 million deal, and added veterans Shelley Smith, Daryn Colledge and Jason Fox in free agency.
Miami also used a first-round pick on former Tennessee standout JaWuan James, who is projected as the team's starting right tackle, and a third-round pick on former North Dakota State standout Billy Turner, who is competing for one of the three vacant starting spots on the offensive line.
Tailback Knowshon Moreno, who contributed 1,586 all-purpose yards and scored 13 touchdown last season as Denver's starter, was signed with the hopes he'd unseat Lamar Miller as the starting tailback. But Moreno had his left knee scoped at the end of minicamp and will spend the first few weeks of training camp rehabbing the troublesome injury.
But all of Miami's problems weren't just on offense.
The defense allowed 1,998 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns last season. Only eight teams allowed more.
The linebackers and safeties also need to do a better job containing tight end and scatbacks on passing downs.
To try to fix those problems, Miami replaced Chris Clemons with Delmas, a physical, hard-hitting safety, and moved Koa Misi from strong sideline linebacker, a position he played his first four seasons in the NFL, to inside linebacker.
The Dolphins hope that's the magic formula to tightening the screws on a defense that has annually kept South Florida's NFL team competitive.
We'll soon fight out if being competitive turns the Dolphins into a winner in 2014.