Joe Mixon could quietly become Bengals’ starter

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NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02: Joe Mixon
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02: Joe Mixon /
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If the same old story pops up for the Bengals’ backfield, things could get interesting. Don’t count out Joe Mixon as the immediate starter.

As the Cincinnati Bengals prepare for another year of excitement, the backfield situation looms. Any fan with even limited knowledge of the offseason dealings knows the score. The Bengals’ O-line took a severe punch to the gut as Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler sniffed the green and rolled out. But, things are just as dicey with the running back situation. To have a consistent and intimidating offense in the AFC North, you need a RB with bite. This year, Joe Mixon may have to lead the charge.

If there’s a silver lining to the backfield dilemma, it comes in the form of Giovani Bernard. After missing the latter part of 2016 with a nasty ACL tear, Bernard may be cleared for training camp. So far, the diminutive but tough running back has had a tremendous offseason recovery. Yet, camp ready and getting hit are totally different animals. Additionally, there’s the confidence time that comes with such an injury.

This is where the Superman music gets cued up. Mixon wasn’t snagged to ride the pine, stand on the sidelines or whatever description fits. The former Sooner was drafted to put the teeth back into the Bengals’ stagnant ground game. No, this is not an outright diss of Jeremy Hill. But, the numbers from his last two seasons aren’t encouraging. It’s time Marvin Lewis analyzed the situation and determines a course of action. Fans could see Mixon starting sooner than later.

The Honest Truth 

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It’s not like fans hate Hill. But, there comes a time when common sense has to kick into gear. Mixon…is…a…beast. The bottom line in the NFL is about winning. To pile up those W’s, the best athletes have to be on the field at all times. In essence, this could be a repeat of what Bengals fans witnessed with Bernard and Hill. Jeremy became a household name when Gio was injured.

There’s also the possibility of a two-headed monster in the backfield. With Hill being in a contract year, he’s bound to give his best effort. Yet, with Mixon standing in the wings, there will be little margin for error. In other words, there can be no indecision at the line. See the hole, hit the hole.

During his college career, Mixon was a north and south runner, Very seldom did he hesitate to go downhill. In fact, he ended his Oklahoma stint averaging 6.8 yards per carry. It’s a toss-up when considering the chances of that number following him into the Bengals’ backfield. But, we can at least figure on 4.5-5.0 yards a pop.

The O-line will be fine. But, they need a back willing to take what they can give. That would be Mixon.

No Attitudes…Just Win

If there’s love lost between Hill and Mixon, so be it. During the offseason, Hill was confident of his position within the Bengals’ offensive scheme. Mixon is a young stud waiting for his chance to shine. If that moment in the limelight means a trip to the playoffs and Super Bowl LII, Mixon should get as many snaps as possible. After all, Hill said he’s comfortable. Essentially, that means he should be fine with Mixon getting the spotlight.

Next: A Year Of Numbers

When in doubt, remember the James Brooks and Ickey Woods duo. They combined for almost 2,000 yards (1,997) in 1988. If OC Ken Zampese can find the sweet spot, fans would welcome a Hill and Mixon repeat of that season. Gio taking the totals higher would be icing on the cake.

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