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Bengals Week 4 rookie report: Joe Mixon struggles behind battered o-line

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Struggles in the running game, unequal snap distribution on the defensive line, chipped teeth!?

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

In the Cincinnati Bengals’ first victory of the 2017 season, they only had five rookies dressed for the game. With first-round pick John Ross still “injured” and Tyler Eifert still dealing with back issues, the offense gave Joe Mixon another sizable workload. And on defense, Carl Lawson went up against his toughest test yet.

Here’s our rookie report for Week 4:

Active

Joe Mixon

Jordan Willis

Carl Lawson

Ryan Glasgow

Cethan Carter

Inactive

John Ross

Josh Malone

Jordan Evans

Joe Mixon

The Bengals second-round pick is off to a rough start, and just by watching the games, you can easily tell it’s not really his fault. Against Cleveland he rushed for a mere 29 yards on 17 carries Of Mixon’s first 53 carries as a pro, 12 of them have gone for a loss. Three of them came from this past Sunday against the Browns, all in the fourth quarter with two coming on back to back plays:

22 percent of your carries going for a loss is going to heavily impact your yards per carry stat, as well as not having many explosive plays to counter to negative ones. He’s only had 17 carries go for yards or more, five of them coming from this game.

To put things in an even larger perspective, Mixon is one of 67 running backs since the 2000 season to record at least 40 attempts in his first four games. He ranks 65th in yards per carry with his 2.62 average, ahead of only former Brown William Greene and former 49er Glen Coffee. On the bright side, names like Le’Veon Bell, Thomas Jones, Mark Ingram and Doug Martin are some of the names below the 3.5 line like Mixon in this specific case.

At the very least, Sunday was the first time Mixon took the majority of the snaps in the backfield, and on the season has nine more carries than Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard have combined. Mixon’s next challenge is to face the Buffalo Bills, who are only giving up 3.9 yards per carry and just limited Falcons lead back Devonta Freeman to 58 yards on 18 carries. His breakout game may have to wait until after the bye week.

Jordan Willis

In the last two weeks since Michael Johnson’s return from injury, Willis has just seen the field for 45 snaps to Johnson’s 101. Not the most ideal ratio, but not quite unexpected either. Johnson has been seeing more and more snaps inside, and it’s been Carl Lawson who has seen most of the pass rushing opportunities at right defensive end, leaving Willis in a rotation on both sides of the formation with fellow reserve Chris Smith.

That was the case again on Sunday. The Bengals defensive front has played lights out so far, and Willis is still being seasoned. He’s still trying to win with just the speed rush and not really using his hands consistently enough. It can only get better if he sees the field more and more.

Carl Lawson

A 2.5 sack performance is a tough act to follow, especially when your matchup is the best left tackle in the game. That was the case for Lawson, who was kept in check by left tackle Joe Thomas for the vast majority of the game. Lawson recorded two official pressures, with neither of them coming against Thomas. One on a stunt with Geno Atkins early in the first quarter, and one on this fourth down stop early in the fourth quarter:

Maybe not the best idea leaving a running back one-on-one with him. Along with his two pressures, he also recorded two front teeth chipped:

If the tooth fairy actually grants production, then I just have to assume Lawson’s on the verge of wearing dentures at this point.

(I’m not sorry).

Ryan Glasgow

For the second straight week, the Bengals defense played an offense who passed the ball over 40 times and ran the ball less than 20 times. This meant for more Glasgow and less Pat Sims and Andrew Billings, who saw a combined 11 snaps to Glasgow’s 24. Glasgow is still trying to adapt to a more penetrating role as a three-technique, and his lack of production is showing that.

The Bengals have pegged him as an under tackle as opposed to a traditional nose tackle, but Glasgow played mostly nose tackle in college. How he progresses in this role will be interesting as to whether or not they need to switch things up behind Geno Atkins.

Cethan Carter

While Tyler Kroft was doing Tyler Eifert like things as the starting tight end, Carter has remained behind C.J. Uzomah as the third tight end, only seeing nine snaps with all of them as a blocker. Eifert’s not presumed to be on track to play Sunday against Buffalo, so expect to see Carter in this role for the time being.

Coming up

The Bengals return home to face a 3-1 Buffalo Bills squad who just beat the defending NFC champions on the road. Will John Ross be active? Will Mixon finally breakout? Will Lawson get his third sack of the year?

Stay tuned.