Zac Taylor and the offensive coaching staff must make sure the 2020 Cincinnati Bengals build on Joe Mixon’s strong finish to 2019.
After a 2-14 record, the Cincinnati Bengals should not allow much to carry over into 2020. The front office clearly understands that. They have added a plethora of new faces via free agency and the draft.
Some things are inevitably carrying over. The coaching staff remains largely the same. Beyond the new faces, the good news for Zac Taylor and his staff is they hit on something with running back Joe Mixon late last year.
Prior to last year’s Week 9 bye, Mixon averaged 15 touches per game and just over 53 scrimmage yards per game. After the bye, those numbers skyrocketed to over 24 touches and 124 scrimmage yards per game. It is no accident that many of Cincinnati’s respectable showings, including their only wins, came after the bye last year. Mixon’s usage is what changed.
This matters heading for 2020 because the Bengals have a highly touted rookie quarterback in Joe Burrow. There are some things that will always be true in the NFL. One of them is that a young quarterback’s best friends are a solid offensive line and running game.
The Bengals didn’t really overhaul the offensive trenches this offseason. Last year’s first-rounder Jonah Williams should start 2020 healthy, but has never played a down in the NFL. He may be the piece that makes the unit finally click, but no one knows.
On the other hand, Mixon is a proven commodity with consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. As tempting as it is to ask someone with Burrow’s talent to carry the franchise right away, it isn’t realistic.
This is not a Patrick Mahomes situation. He got a year to sit and learn, then walked into a playoff-caliber roster and Andy Reid. Burrow gets nothing remotely close to that. Thus, Mixon’s shoulders are a safer bet to carry the squad in 2020.
The Bengals were far more competitive late last year thanks to a Mixon centric game plan. That is also the winning formula this year. Have Burrow throw 15-25 times a game, limit turnovers, and control the clock by feeding number 28 over and over again.