IRVING, Texas – Terrance Mitchell's NFL career has been all about movement to this point, so it's not surprising to see that trend continue in 2016.
The third-year corner is back with the team that drafted him after a year abroad. But though he might currently classified as a cornerback, the Cowboys are experimenting by moving Mitchell to a variety of spots this spring – most notably, nickel back and safety.
"He has a lot of physical traits that would make you think he could play safety," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett last week. "You saw some of that when he was playing nickel last year at the end of the year."
That was definitely on display in the final weeks of last season, when Mitchell saw his first action for the Cowboys. He played in the final three games of the season for a struggling team that was shorthanded at defensive back.
During that stretch, he not only tallied 12 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble, but he recorded the first interception by a Dallas cornerback in more than a calendar year. His pick of Ryan Fitzpatrick in the Cowboys' 19-16 loss to the Jets on Dec. 19, 2015, was the first interception by a Dallas corner since Orlando Scandrick intercepted Jay Cutler on Dec. 4, 2014.
"He just has some awareness about him. He has some play-making ability," Garrett said.
Through three weeks of offseason practices, Mitchell said he's enjoying the transition. He was drafted in the seventh-round of the 2014 NFL Draft to play outside corner, and that's where he got the majority of his work on a rookie.
Playing in the middle of the field freshens up the game a little bit, he said, and allows him to be closer to the ball.
"Out there, you're just seeing the whole field and there's not really as much pressure as there is on a corner – having to lock in on a receiver and cover him all day. It kind of frees you up a little bit," Mitchell said.
It all combines to create an interesting situation for Mitchell. He's no stranger to playing in the defensive backfield, but he's experimenting with new positions. He's also a familiar face around the Cowboys' facility, given that he was once a draft pick – though he's been away for a while.
Mitchell didn't make the 53-man roster after training camp in 2014. The Cowboys offered him a practice squad spot, but he declined in favor of a place on Chicago's practice squad. He spent all of that season with the Bears, and he won an active roster spot after training camp in 2015.
He played five games in Chicago before a hamstring injury sidelined him. He was eventually set back to the practice squad and ultimately released – only to wind up in the same place he started.
"It's just crazy how fast time flies. It's a whole bunch of learning and some ups and downs, but I'm still living and breathing and I've got another opportunity now," Mitchell said. "It's a business, and you've got to take care of business – all the time."
Business is ongoing, from the conclusion of the offseason program up until Mitchell's third trip through training camp. As the calendar continues to move in that direction, he said his goals for 2016 are pretty simple.
"I just want to focus on just making the team, really," he said. "Work hard and make the team, and let all the chips fall where they may after that."