The majority of the attention following the draft has gone to how dangerous this Cincinnati Bengals’ offense can be with Joe Burrow throwing to Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd.
What some have missed is how much space should be freed up for running back Joe Mixon who has been reunited with his favorite offensive line coach Frank Pollack. Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator, Brian Callahan, doesn’t want Mixon to be limited in anyway from making an impact on the field, though. That starts with becoming an every down running back.
“I don’t want Joe to leave the field, personally, and I think he’s up to that challenge,” Callahan told Local 12 WKRC. “He has some things he has to improve pass-protection-wise. Joe shouldn’t come off the field, he should be on the field every down. He’s aware of that.”
It makes sense for Callahan to be saying this for several reasons. The first, Mixon is now being paid like one of the top running backs in the league. He signed a four year $48 million contract prior to the 2020 season, which should raise expectations for what he can and will do for this offense.
The other big reason for this shift in philosophy, Giovani Bernard isn’t around anymore after the team let him go prior to the draft. He has been Cincinnati’s passing situation running back basically since he was drafted in 2013. One of the big reasons for that was his sensational pass blocking ability. Mixon has some big shoes to fill in that department.
If Mixon can get his pass blocking up to snuff, though, it could pay huge dividends for the entire offense, because Mixon has shown he can be dangerous as a pass catcher. He has shown he is dangerous out and space, and he is capable of beating linebackers when one-on-one. The biggest reason he hasn’t been doing that as often is his pass blocking.
We should still expect to see a decent amount of Samaje Perine and whoever wins the competition between Trayveon Williams, Chris Evans and Pooka Williams for the third running back spot. However, we saw Mixon barely getting around 60 percent of the snaps his first two seasons of being a full-time starter, and last season he had three games where he took over 70 percent of the snaps, which should become the new norm.
The Bengals offense looks pretty dangerous on paper, and they could become that much more lethal if Mixon starts to become a factor in the passing game as well.