Many fans were excited when the Cincinnati Bengals decided to take a risk on Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon in this year’s NFL Draft. Some draft experts considered him the most complete running back in the draft, drawing comparisons to Le’Veon Bell.
The question coming into the season was whether or not Marvin Lewis and company were going to give Mixon a chance to play, given the Bengals history of not playing rookies right away.
After the first two games, it appeared that’s what the Bengals were planning with Mixon. Mixon carried the ball just eight times for nine yards and had three catches for 15 yards in the opening game against the Ravens.
Many times, he was hit behind the line of scrimmage without much of a chance to do anything. Mixon had more success against the Texans in week two, gaining 36 yards on nine carries. However, It seemed like as soon as Mixon was starting to get a feel for the game, he would be replaced by Jeremy Hill or Giovani Bernard.
It was clear the offense was heading in the wrong direction, and something had to change. That change came when the Bengals surprisingly fired offensive coordinator Ken Zampese a day after the disappointing loss to the Texans.
Bill Lazor was hired to take over the duties of offensive coordinator. Lazor mentioned earlier in the week that he likes to feature one back, as opposed to operating by committee. He proved true to his word by letting Mixon get the bulk of the snaps against Green Bay.
Mixon carried the ball 18 times for 62 yards (3.4 YPC) and had three catches for 39 yards. He showed off all his tools against the Packers and was clearly the best back either team had.
Bernard and Hill both only had 10 carries combined for the entire game. You would like to see Mixon do a little better than 3.4 yards per carry, but we did get to see flashes of what Mixon can do in both the running and passing game if given more opportunities.
It was mentioned during the broadcast of the game that the Bengals sat down and talked to the running backs as a group earlier in the week. The intention of the meeting was to let the group know that the best running back is going to play.
It’s a pretty simple concept, but it’s one that the Bengals have had a hard time grasping over the years. It appears, for now, that the Bengals are finally going to play the best player, regardless of tenure.
Unfortunately, featuring Mixon didn’t result in a win against the Packers, but the offense showed clear improvement with him as the feature back.