Cincinnati Bengals rookie running back Joe Mixon has been receiving plenty of hype as many hope he proves worthy of stealing away Jeremy Hill’s starting position this season.
During training camp, Mixon has looked great—though he suffered a minor heel injury on Thursday. And now, Bengals.com’s Geoff Hobson is predicting Mixon will get plenty of action early and often when the season begins:
Mixon is the real deal. I think you have to think about him as a 15-to-20-carry-a-game guy with three to five catches. Right away. Sept. 10. Vs. Baltimore.
This is a pretty shocking and bold claim considering how the Bengals usually handle their rookies. And, Hobson typically knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the Bengals’ plans. He is employed by the team, after all. It seems like Marvin Lewis is changing his ways; at least slightly. The team was very focused on getting faster this offseason, and Mixon was a big part of that.
With that said, this prediction makes total sense. Especially if Mixon has a productive preseason, while Hill continues his struggles from the past few seasons. Mixon replacing Hill could have an instant impact. Hill has struggled running from the shotgun during his career in Cincinnati, and it forced the team to show their hand with their formations. Mixon, however, ran from the shotgun almost exclusively in college, and was one of the most productive running backs in his class.
It would be great to see Mixon get a heavy workload starting in Week 1. For comparison, Jeremy Hill averaged 14.8 rushes per game in 2016 and 13.9 rushes per game in 2015. So if Mixon is seeing 15 to 20 per game, that would likely mean he’s receiving the majority of reps at the running back position.
Hobson also went on to warn the Bengals about repeating history.
Corey Dillon was drafted 20 years ago. Let’s not celebrate that anniversary by repeating history, when Dillon barely played his rookie year until the 10th game even though he was clearly the best back on the team. It cost them a playoff spot. They went 7-9 in ’97 and Dillon still rushed for 1,000 yards.
It will be interesting to see how the Bengals use Mixon, if he’ll be starting and if it truly will be Week 1 when he starts seeing 15+ touches per game. These questions will only intensify if Hill struggles in the preseason. How many times can Marvin Lewis watch Hill run into the back of the offensive line before he gives the rookie a shot? Considering his job may be on the line after the team didn’t extend him this offseason, he may be more motivated to play the best guys regardless of experience.
Despite all of this Hobson doesn’t think it’d be a good idea to trade Hill, something that has been brought up quite often this offseason. (And we agree, Hill is going nowhere.)
I think they should keep Jeremy Hill. And there’ll probably be plenty of buzz about trading him late in camp, but don’t do it. This guy can still help them. He’s a good back, very good on the goal-line and what a perfect panacea for an offensive line in transition: a stable of three starting caliber backs in Mixon, Hill, and Giovani Bernard. Perfect. Rotate them, make sure you run it 30-35 times to take heat off the young tackles, and how much room do you think that will give A.J. Green and friends?
Mixon and Bernard are obviously the duo of the future but Hill adds value to the Bengals in the final year of his rookie deal... just as long as they use him as a backup and watch Mixon shine.