Who is Joe Mixon and what does he bring to the Cincinnati Bengals as a football player?
In short, he’s a highly impressive running back who can instantly improve the Bengals’ roster. But, we wanted to get a better answer than that. To get a sense for Mixon’s on-the-field experience, we spoke with Jack Shields, who runs Crimson and Cream Machine, SB Nation's Oklahoma blog. He’s covered Mixon, watched him play and is sharing his thoughts on Mixon’s football ability with us today.
Cincy Jungle: From a talent perspective, what does Mixon bring to the Bengals?
JS: Of all the backs who have been drafted in recent years, Mixon is probably the most polished as a pass catcher. He’s not just someone who is going to make defenses pay on screens and short routes – he has the ability to make catches in traffic, win jump-ball battles and adjust his body to make spectacular catches. He’s also great between the tackles (although there have been instances in which he’s decided to break outside for larger gains when he probably shouldn’t have). Finally, he’s a much better pass blocker than people give him credit for. As a 6’1”, 220-pound back with tremendous speed, power and catching ability, he really is the total package.
CJ: What were his greatest strengths at Oklahoma?
JS: His versatility made him one of the best offensive players in all of college football last season. He’s someone who could be used on first, second or third down in either the backfield or out wide. Additionally, his speed and open-field ability made him the perfect compliment to Samaje Perine in Oklahoma’s backfield. Bengals fans are undoubtedly hoping he can complement Jeremy Hill in the same way.
CJ: How about weaknesses?
JS: As I mentioned before, his biggest weakness as a football player is his tendency to go for the big gain to the outside instead of hitting the hole. However, it’s not like it was an especially common occurrence, and it would sometimes work out very well for him against college defenses. He has the ability to hit a hole very quickly, so it’s something he’ll just have to be coached up on.
CJ: I haven't heard about any injuries he went through in college. Were there any?
JS: He was definitely able to stay healthy during his time at Oklahoma, and part of that is likely due to the fact that he was able to share the load during his time there. There were a few instances in which he had to hobble off the field, but he was usually back out there on the next possession.
CJ: What do you think about Mixon landing in Cincinnati?
JS: Strictly from a football perspective, I think it’s a good fit. Giovani Bernard suffered an ACL tear last season, and – at least from the outside looking in – it seems that he’s been selected as an upgrade. He’ll be a major contributor in the passing game, but he’ll also be able to run between the tackles whenever Hill needs a breather. I don’t think he’ll be a starter as a rookie, but I fully expect him to be a major contributor right away in Cincinnati.
There’s been a lot said about how certain individuals in Cincinnati’s locker room could potentially keep him from staying on the straight-and-narrow, but I think that’s likely the case with many NFL teams. It’s up to him – and him alone – to prove that he is worthy of the opportunity he’s been given.