Many Bengals experts have tagged Mixon as a breakout candidate in 2018. He’s looking to prove pundits right as he’s already slimmed down this offseason.
All signs point to Joe Mixon having a breakout season in year two on the Bengals. He got off to a slow start as a rookie, but there were many inhibiting factors. A poor offensive line and a stupid running back rotation hurt Mixon at first. Once he got in a groove, Mixon had a really strong season. Now, he has to carry that momentum into year two.
One big way Mixon has improved already is his frame. He made a point in the offseason to change his body and slim down. When he reported for Bengals camp, it was clear he had done just that. Mixon’s rookie year body was 6’2″, 231 pounds, which is good, but on the heavier side. This season, Mixon is down 13 pounds – most of which were fat.
Shedding that weight should improve Mixon’s best skills. On his college tape, his ability in the open field and the passing game are evident. Mixon has second-level speed and agility without sacrificing punishing size. As a rookie, he flashed that dynamism from time to time, but never put it together consistently. Now that he is a little lighter, Mixon should be even quicker in the open field.
A former Bengals running back, legend Ickey Woods, has already taken notice. Woods, in an interview with bengals.com, raved about Mixon’s ability. The offensive line’s failures frustrated Woods last year, but that unit’s improvement under new coach Frank Pollack should help Mixon immensely.
However, it seems Woods is even more bullish on Mixon’s talents. Woods suggests that Mixon could top 1,300 yards next season, which would blow away any of the Bengals’ running back totals from last year. If Mixon gets the work this season, Woods’ projection may not be far off. Mixon’s weight loss should definitely increase his efficiency and stamina, so 1,300 yards+ is well within reach.
Woods concluded his praise of Mixon by comparing him to legendary Bengals running back James Brooks. Woods played behind Brooks in his time in Cincinnati, so he would know best. Woods likes that Mixon runs hard between the tackles while maintains the ability to blow by people in the open field. Also, both Mixon and Brooks are excellent pass catchers. Brooks is a high standard, but Mixon could reach that lofty ceiling. Mixon’s offseason work already proves he’s committed to improvement.