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Comparing Joe Mixon to Ezekiel Elliott

Closer than you might think in some areas.

NFL: AUG 18 Preseason - Bengals at Cowboys Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Thursday, a report stated that former Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott had narrowed down the list of teams he’d like to play for and the Cincinnati Bengals were on it.

Other teams to pique his interest were the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets.

The report sparked conversation among Bengals fans in regard to what his role would be on the team with Joe Mixon, and it sparked a debate about Mixon’s future in Cincinnati as a whole. Some feel Mixon’s cap hit that is north of $12,000,000 in 2023 is too high for the production he put out last season.

Is the Bengals’ reported interest in Elliott a ploy to convince Mixon to take a pay cut? Or would signing Elliott mean the end for Mixon in Bengal stripes?

A third option would be Elliott playing alongside Mixon, taking over the third down and pass protection role left by the now-departed Samaje Perine. The Bengals front office typically keeps things pretty quiet until it is time to make a move, so we may not know which of these is their plan until Elliott actually signs with the team, if he even does.

For fun, let’s take a look at how the two backs stacked up side by side in the 2022 season:


Last regular season, Mixon was the Bengals’ lead running back. Appearing in 14 games, he took the bulk of the carries. On 210 carries, Mixon gained 814 yards and seven touchdowns. Four of those touchdowns came in a single game in November against the Carolina Panthers. While these numbers aren’t terrible, one could argue the production doesn’t warrant the kind of paycheck Mixon collects.

Comparatively, Elliott carried the ball 231 times last season, spending most of the year splitting carries with Tony Pollard. On those 231 attempts, Elliott racked up 876 yards and 12 touchdowns. Zeke did play in one more game than Mixon, but the five-touchdown gap still stands out.


This is the area where Mixon stands out. With 60 receptions for 441 yards and two touchdowns, Mixon put together a quality season catching out of the backfield, making his large cap number easier to digest. In the pass-heavy Bengals offense, a back that can make plays in the receiving game is certainly valuable.

Elliott’s production was far less, with only 17 catches for 92 yards and no touchdowns. Granted, the Cowboys offense didn’t ask for Elliott to do much in the receiving game.

Pass Protection:

One thing that does stand out in Elliott’s favor is his pass protection. As an area where Mixon lacks in an offense that passes the ball so much, Elliott would provide a clear upgrade in that department. We rarely saw Mixon on the field in obvious passing situations last season and his lack of success picking up defenders is a large reason why.

Who knows if Elliott lands in Cincinnati or not and even if he does, who knows what the front office has planned?