Bengals 53-man roster predictions: Running backs
While the Cincinnati Bengals are taking part in OTA’s, we are making predictions on which players will make the final 53 man roster cuts.
The Cincinnati Bengals have a solid group of running backs heading into training camp this season. With former running back Jeremy Hill heading to New England in free agency, second-year running back Joe Mixon will take the charge as the lead back. Mixon was limited in snaps last season between Hill and complementary back Giovani Bernard. Running behind an offensive line that struggled for the duration of 2017, Mixon was also limited on what he could do.
Mixon finished the season with 178 rushes for 628 yards and four touchdowns. He caught 30 passes for 287 yards out of the backfield as well. Given that Mixon only started in seven games last year, we fully expect his numbers to sore past his 2017 rookie production. Mixon will also be running behind an offensive line that has seen additions like left tackle Cordy Glenn and first-round pick center Billy Price.
During the final two weeks of the season, the Bengals deployed a different style of offense that we hadn’t seen much of throughout the season. Shotgun formations and quick attacking football helped them knock both the Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens out of the playoffs. I expect this will carry over into offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s new playbook for 2018. Mixon has the ability to be a dual-threat weapon in this offense.
All of the running backs on the Bengals roster will benefit from this new offense. Given that Jeremy Hill was more of an old-school type back, the need for a fullback now is very low. Bernard is another back that thrives in shotgun formations and the offensive line seemed to play better in these formations as well. Bernard thrived against the Lions in week 16 running for 116 yards and a touchdown. The overall running backs group totaled another 106 yards through the air.
More from Stripe Hype
- 6 Bengals whose stock significantly rose in preseason game vs Cardinals
- 7 winners and 7 losers from Bengals preseason opener vs. Cardinals
- Jackson Carman winning LG job isn’t a given after Bengals preseason opener
- How to watch the Cincinnati Bengals in 2022
- Denzel Ward wants to flex on Bengals WRs in 2022
Bernard will compliment Mixon tremendously. While the Bengals offense went away from the run game at times last season, I expect them to get the backs more involved this year behind a better line and new playbook. We saw against the Lions the damage the backs can do when used as a dual threat. Mixon and Bernard will lead the charge and both should have good seasons.
Cincinnati also drafted fourth-round pick, Mark Walton. The former Miami running back suffered an injury in his 2017 campaign, otherwise, he would have likely be drafted much sooner. Walton is another back that thrives in space and is explosive running and catching the ball. If either Mixon or Bernard went down with an injury, I would feel confident in Walton stepping in for a period of time without a dramatic drop-off in production for the offense.
I believe that Cincinnati will carry four running backs this season with all of the potentials they have on the roster. The battle for the fourth back will come down to Brian Hill and UDFA Quinton Flowers. If it were up to me I would keep Flowers for special packages. Given that Flowers played quarterback through college at South Florida, he brings a versatility that could be used in creative plays. His abilities with the ball in his hands are too electric to pass up on and I think the Bengals should consider keeping him as their fourth guys.
Related Story: Bengals 53-man roster predictions: Quarterbacks
The Bengals running back group is arguably the best overall group on the team with exception to maybe defensive ends. Mixon was one of my bold predictions earlier this month to have over 1,400 yards for scrimmage. Just increasing his rushing yards and receiving yards by 200 each would get him just shy of that. I think Mixon is the biggest key to this offense exploding in 2018, and we could see the entire running back group contribute to that.