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The Joe Mixon performance we’ve all been waiting for

Breaking tackles and influencing second level defenders lead to breakout performance for the Bengals running back.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Joe Mixon finally had his long awaited breakout game this season. The Bengals ran the ball effectively against the Buccaneers, especially in the first half when they fed Mixon the ball regularly. When the run game struggled, it was occasionally because a defensive lineman beat his block, but the biggest issue was not getting the linebackers blocked. When the linebackers were taken care of by the offensive line, wide receivers, or Mixon himself, the Bengals had a field day in the run game.

On this play, tight end C.J. Uzomah reaches and cuts the back-side defensive end. Left tackle Cordy Glenn reaches the 3-technique and works up to the linebacker on the left side. Trey Hopkins blocks the nose tackle and Alex Redmond clears out the linebacker on the right side. Right tackle Bobby Hart blocks out on the play-side defensive end.

Mixon takes the handoff initially following the same bath as Redmond on the Zone run, than cuts back off Boling’s block at the second level, This is key because if prevents the safety from making the play as he is taken out by Boling’s block. Hopkins seems to be having some trouble with the nose tackle, but all in all this is a great rep for the Bengals and results in a touchdown.

This is the same play earlier in the game, Once again the guards do a great job of getting u to the linebackers with speed. This makes a big difference when running zone. Hopkins effectively reaches Buccaneers defensive tackle Vita Vea, but his strength and speed almost allows him to make a play on Mixon. Despite this, Mixon is able to break through for a gain of 15 yards.

On the first play of the game the Bengals ran a zone run to the left. The offensive line never really got to the inside linebacker, but Mixon’s action to the left sucked him in and made him irrelevant to the play when Mixon cut it back to the right. Buccaneers Linebacker Lavonte David was unblocked, but Mixon hit the back-side with speed and forced the missed tackle and he is able to pick up 18 yards on the run. This is the difference between Mixon and a guy like Jeremy Hill. Mixon can make things happen even when defenders are unaccounted for.

This play is another example of how Mixon can set up blocks. Here he runs straight up the gut and finds no where to go. It takes a couple of jump cuts for him to get to the outside, but selling the run inside first has allowed Glenn to get up to linebacker Adarius Taylor which springs Mixon for a 6-yard gain.

There used to be another running back in the AFC North whose patience was frequently talked about. I don’’t remember who that was, but now Mixon’s patience is the benchmark. Hopkins and left guard Christian Westerman rock defensive tackle Beau Allen back so far that he ends up on the edge and unblocked. Wide receiver Tyler Boyd fails to get to slot cornerback De’Vante Harris (no not Davontae Harris, this is a different guy) who joins Allen on the edge. Mixon jump cuts to the outside and as Allen and Harris simultaneously approach he cuts it up field breaking both tackles. After failing to make the block on Harris, Boyd blocks the inside linebacker, which is fortuitous because Hopkins is a little late to that party. Mixon ends up gaining 9 yards on a play that probably should have gone for nothing.

This play is basically a designed bounce for Mixon whose initially path is pretty tight. He runs quickly cuts out to follow Hopkins who is pulling to the outside to seal the play-side linebacker. Boling led the way, pulling out to block the slot defender and Hart worked quickly to the second level to the back-side linebacker. The result is Mixon’s longest run of the day for 43 yards.

This is great play design with the wide receivers playing a big role. A.J. Green comes in motion and effectively holds the back-side linebacker with the threat of the Jet Sweep. Boyd and Alex Erickson crack with Boyd on the defensive end and Erickson on the play-side linebacker. Glenn and Boling pull out in front of the toss to Mixon. Boling gets pushed back by the defensive end, but Glenn helps Erickson with the linebacker. Mixon hits the edge and gains 13 yards on the run.


When the Bengals are able to account for the linebackers in the run game, Mixon is a dominant player. Lineman getting to the second level with speed are effective, but receivers and pullers can get the job done as well. Mixon is dangerous on the edge and it would be interesting to see the Bengals give line him up at wide receiver and get him the ball on some Jet Sweeps.