In his first game as offensive coordinator, Bill Lazor made sure his playmakers got the ball.
It did not take long to notice the changes new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor made to the Bengals’ offense. In Sunday’s overtime loss to Green Bay, Lazor’s unit focused on its playmakers, an aspect that was severely lacking in Cincinnati’s first two games of the season.
Rookie Joe Mixon and perennial Pro-Bowler A.J. Green were the focal points on Sunday. The adjustment saw results right away, as Cincinnati scored its first touchdown of the year, journeying 79 yards on Lazor’s first drive on the job. The drive was capped by Green’s first touchdown since Week 10 of last season.
Green caught 10 of his team-high 13 targets. Backup tight end Tyler Kroft was second in targets with four.
In the first two weeks, Ken Zampese used a committee approach at running backfield. Mixon had 17 carries, while Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill each had 12. It was a different story at Lambeau, though. There was a clear feature back against the Packers, and it was the 48th pick in last April’s draft.
Mixon eclipsed his carry mark from the first two games combined on Sunday, carrying the rock 18 times for 62 yards. He also caught all three of his targets, meaning that he, along with Green, possessed the ball or were targeted on 56 percent of Cincinnati’s snaps.
With the rookie owning the workload, Bernard offered a change of pace on his three carries. The UNC product broke his second run of 20-plus yards this season and caught Andy Dalton‘s second first-half touchdown pass.
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Meanwhile, Hill was used in most short-yardage scenarios, collecting 23 yards on seven carries. Two plays prior to Bernard’s scoring snag, he leaped over the trenches and into no man’s land to move the chains on a crucial red zone third down.
It’s good to know Lazor was listening when a distraught Green seemed upset about his lack of targets following the Bengals 13-9 loss to Houston.
This also means that Lazor, in his 12th season as an NFL coach, gave the team’s backfield a nucleus in Mixon.
However, it was not all sunshine for the Bengals’ offense. On their final seven drives of the game, Cincinnati punted five times, went 0-for-6 on third down and only came away with three points. That spelled trouble for a club desperately clinging to a lead for most of the game, as Aaron Rodgers came storming back and the Packers scored 20 of the game’s final 23 points.
Going forward, it will be interesting what Lazor will do with more weapons at his disposal. Although Tyler Eifert could be out multiple weeks with a lingering back issue, first-round speedster John Ross should be on track to suit up in the foreseeable future after missing the loss to Green Bay with a knee injury. In his only appearance of the season, the rookie fumbled on his lone touch against the Texans.
Cleveland is on deck for the Bengals, and Lazor should be licking his chops. Under the direction of Greg Williams –now the defensive coordinator for his fifth different team in his 13th season at the position– the Browns (0-3) are allowing 25.3 points per game, the third-highest mark in the conference.