Joe Mixon was as good as advertised in his debut season with the Bengals, thriving when given the chance to and in spite of a struggling offensive line and a questionable offensive game plan.
If you just focus on Mixon’s raw numbers, it wouldn’t seem to you that he shined, but if you watched the games or rewatched the tape, he was electric. All the skills and talents scouts and college fans saw in him during his stint in Oklahoma were there.
In fact, per Pro-Football Reference, almost 80% of Mixon’s carries went for seven yards or more, which is amazing considering how many times the Bengals were running from under center in first down.
Mixon isn’t the strongest or the fastest back, but he makes people miss often, and he has elite vision and patience to wait for his blocks and find a gap. And when he finds daylight, he’s gone.
The Bengals should’ve made him a featured part of their offense, but instead kept giving Jeremy Hill chances until he decided to pursue surgery in his walk year. With the way teams like the Rams and Chargers use backs like Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon, one must wonder how Mixon would fare in those situations.
We’ve selected the three best plays of his maiden season, but if you think we missed one, let us know in the comments section.
Making J.J. Watt miss
Other than his vision and patience, Mixon’s best trait is his shiftiness. To watch Mixon fool defenders at ease is akin to watch Celtics’ point guard Kyrie Irving routinely embarrass opponents on his way to the rim.
And Mixon was at it very early in the season, on Thursday Night Football and against the Watt-led Texans defense, one that was very strong before plenty of injuries took their toll on it.
On this play on first down, when the Bengals almost always ran and rivals knew it, Mixon turns what should’ve been a loss into a positive play after evading the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. A beauty.
Also, Tyler Eifert against Watt?
Le’Veon Bell is, right now, the best back in the league. He’s very good at everything and then elite at waiting for his linemen to set the blocks and find the gap. Mixon’s been compared to him early in his NFL career and for a good reason.
In their first matchup, the former Sooner had a pretty strong game, racking up 68 yards in just 10 touches, including a 25-yard rush that is his longest yet as a pro.
Catch and run for 67 yards against the Colts
Mixon is the complete package, and he had a tremendous season as a receiver that should have warranted more touches, including this impressive effort in Week 8.
On this occasion, he also displayed his burst, vision and ability to miss tacklers, and ended up going down just three yards shy of the end zone.
Mixon had a lot of highlight plays in 2017, and hopefully with Hill gone and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor more familiar with the personnel, he’d be a much more important part of the game plan going forward, because he’s got star potential.