football-player football-score football-helmet football-ball Accuracy Arm-Strength Balance Ball-Security Ball-Skills Big-Play-Ability Block-Deconstruction Competitive-Toughness Core-Functional-Strength Decision-Making Discipline Durability Effort-Motor Elusivness Explosiveness Football-IQ Footwork Functional-Athleticism Hand-Counters Hand-Power Hand-Technique Hands Lateral-Mobility Leadership Length Mechanics Mobility Pass-Coverage-Ability Pass-Protection Pass-Sets Passing-Down-Skills Pocket-Manipulation Poise Power-at-POA Progressions RAC-Ability Range Release-Package Release Route-Running Run-Defending Separation Special-Teams-Ability-1 Versatility Vision Zone-Coverage-Skills Anchor-Ability Contact-Balance Man-Coverage-Skills Tackling Lifted Logic Web Design in Kansas City clock location phone email play chevron-down chevron-left chevron-right chevron-up facebook tiktok checkbox checkbox-checked radio radio-selected instagram google plus pinterest twitter youtube send linkedin search arrow-circle bell left-arrow right-arrow tdn-mark filled-play-circle yellow-arrow-circle dark-arrow-circle star cloudy snowy rainy sunny plus minus triangle-down link close drag minus-circle plus-circle pencil premium trash lock simple-trash simple-pencil eye cart
NFL Draft

Is Joe Mixon Ready To ‘Never Leave The Field?’

  • The Draft Network
  • May 17, 2021
  • Share

The Cincinnati Bengals will have a new look in their backfield this season, but with a familiar face. Joe Mixon, after an injury-shortened 2020 season, is poised to be their three-down back with help from rookie Chris Evans and a few other running backs. It’s a tall task for Mixon, the fourth-year ball-carrier who has only played one full season so far in his career, but offensive coordinator Brian Callahan is confident Mixon is up for the challenge.

“I don’t want Joe to leave the field, personally, and I think he’s up to that challenge,” Callahan said May 3 following Evans’ selection, via The Athletic. “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.”

There will be a slight running back competition this offseason—for the spot behind Mixon. Evans’ presence, and his skill set, will bring competition to the running back room following the release of Giovani Bernard in April. Samaje Perine, who’s slated to be RB2, will bring his pass-protection skills to the group and be a reliable backup when needed. Evans also has good pass-catching ability, which is something Mixon added to Cincinnati’s offense over the years, mainly in 2019 when he had a career-high three touchdowns. 

“Samaje has been an excellent pass protector when called upon,” Callahan continued. “We feel really good about those two guys. How that role shakes out after that is up to the competition. ... Ultimately I see Joe as the primary guy to start in all facets of the running game.”

There aren’t many teams, aside from the Tennessee Titans that put a bulk of the load on one rusher. Even Derrick Henry’s high level of play seems unsustainable long term at as violent and taxing of a position as running back is. This hasn’t stopped Callahan and the rest of the Bengals’ brass from envisioning what a run game looks like with Mixon as a three-down rusher.

“I think what you see around the league is that it’s hard to hold the ball,” said Callahan. “That’s every team across the league. There’s nobody that sits back and drops back and hangs onto the ball for a long time because those guys on the other side are freak shows. With those defensive linemen and the blitz packages you see, life is hard for a lot of teams. And when you get a chance to get guys who can win on the outside—and we feel really good about the guys we have that can go win matchups and catch balls—it helps when they win fast. That’s a big part of it. You can dictate a little bit of a coverage structure too, and you have some big plays and some explosiveness. Now all of a sudden you get soft boxes for the run game, and all these things fit together.”

Mixon, when healthy, has the speed and temperament needed to move and find a way through defenders. He can (ideally) stay on the field for almost any situation, including passing downs, which was Bernard’s role; but with Bernard now in Tampa Bay, Mixon can have a more prominent spot in Cincinnati’s offense. 

In 2018 and 2019, he had his most productive seasons. In 14 games (with 13 starts) in 2018, Mixon eclipsed 1,160 yards and had eight touchdowns to boot. In 2019, in 16 games (with 15 starts), Mixon finished with 1,130-plus yards and five touchdowns. 

Mixon is the clear-cut starter; the Bengals didn’t use an early pick in the 2021 NFL Draft on a running back for a reason, and Evans, who was selected in the sixth round, can have a developmental role until he’s ready for more touches. The Bengals finished with the ninth-fewest average rushing yards per game (104.3). Mixon’s additional touches and increased workload will aid now-second-year quarterback Joe Burrow. The young, flashy offense will serve Mixon well.

Cincinnati could see a resurgence in its rushing attack, something that’s been void from this team almost as long as the playoffs. A more productive run game can elevate the Bengals in the often-tough AFC North and aid in their rebuild; Mixon will play a huge part in that. If he enters 2021 at full strength and continues to stay healthy, he could play a Henry-esque role in the short term. It would be wise to consider long-term options that wouldn’t run one of the team’s better offensive players into the ground.

Filed In

Related Articles

Written By

The Draft Network