The Cincinnati Bengals have an interesting quandary in the backfield heading into the 2017 season.
This has traditionally been a franchise that relies on experienced veterans at every position on the 53-man roster. That normally applies to running back as well, where an intriguing pair of veterans could take the majority of touches this season.
However, both Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill underperformed enough as featured backs in recent years, and Bernard is coming off an ACL tear that could have him sidelined or limited for the start of the regular season. Hill has also been frequently banged up during the last two seasons. Even when healthy enough to play, Hill has rarely looked like the kind of back you want getting the majority of touches in any offense.
That’s why Joe Mixon could become a rookie who has a big role in the Bengals’ offense. The second-round running back out of Oklahoma certainly has the talent and look of a bellcow back, but will he earn that role as a rookie?
Hill thinks Mixon is certainly capable of it. In an interview with SiriusXM, Hill discussed the Bengals’ backfield and how Mixon figures into it. Like Mixon, Hill was once a second-round pick who ended up having a major workload as a rookie.
Now that the tables are turned, Hill sees the same situation playing out for Mixon, though Hill still hopes to be the workhorse back.
“You know you don’t take a running back in the second round and put him on the shelf,” said Hill. “Obviously Joe is gonna get his carries, and they extended Gio, so he’s gonna obviously get his play too.
“For me, really, I can’t focus on all of those things. For me, the best-case scenario is I win the job and get the bulk load of the carries, and that’s what I’m preparing myself for, and we’ll just go from there. I think the sky's the limit for our offense.”
Hill is keeping a positive outlook, and says having Mixon and Bernard sharing the rushing workload will keep him durable for the entire season.
“We have so much talent on our offense,” said Hill. “I think for us, it’s gonna take everybody (for it to work). And I think, as selfish as it may sound, for me, I think having those guys spelling me is gonna benefit me in the long run, as far as longevity, so I’m not worried about that at all.”
Saying this, Hill sees a world of potential in Mixon and can’t wait to see the rookie blossom on the field.
“Joe is gonna be a great player in this league,” said Hill. “Obviously there’s no denying that, and there’s no faking that. He’s gonna be a great player. He’s obviously young, but he’s gonna make a ton of plays for our football team, and I’m excited to see him go out there and do that.”
Meanwhile, Hill is just taking everything in stride while working hard to be the best player and leader he can be for this Bengals team. While his role will likely be lessened this year, Hill still expects to make an impact for a Bengals team poised to get back into playoff contention.
Be sure to listen to the full interview here: