The Cincinnati Bengals have been dropping hints that they’ll be increasing the workload of star running back Joe Mixon.
As the Cincinnati Bengals have begun to prepare for the upcoming season, almost all of the attention has been focused on the new man under center, Joe Burrow. However, between the interviews, quotes, and videos of the LSU product slinging the ball to his new wide receivers, the coaching staff has been hinting that the offense will revolve around the other Joe in the Queen City. That would be Joe Mixon, the star running back that could make or break the franchise’s offense in 2020.
It’s easy to get caught up in all of the hype revolving around the new talent set to be injected into the offense. From Burrow, to Jonah Williams, to Tee Higgins, the orange and black faithful have plenty to be excited about. At the end of the day though, how well Zac Taylor’s offense performs will largely rely on Mixon.
While speaking with Bengals Senior Writer Geoff Hobson, offensive coordinator Brian Callahan had this to say about his outstanding running back,
"“He gets better as he gets more carries. As the season went along we got better getting him more touches…He’s been very effective as far as just pure touches. Carries and catches…The more Joe touches the ball the better it is for our offense, without a doubt.”"
There are a couple of interesting things to note in Callahan’s comments. The first being the mention of Mixon getting more touches down the stretch last season. Not so coincidentally, as the former Oklahoma Sooner saw more targets, Cincinnati began to perform much better.
In fact, throughout the first 8 games of the 2019 campaign, Mixon saw just 12.6 carries per contest. During the second half of the year, however, that number jumped to 22.1 carries per game. The increase in touches led to the Bengals earning their lone pair of wins on the season and the offense taking a leap from scoring 15.5 points per game to 19.4 points on average.
Joe Mixon in the passing game
The second intriguing point brought up is Callahan’s mention of Mixon in the passing game. Analysts have long been pounding the table for the talented running back to get more looks in the air attack, to no avail. By the sound of things, however, that might soon change.
In his two collegiate seasons in Norman, Mixon hauled in 9 touchdowns with nearly 900 receiving yards to go with it. Since joining the professional ranks, he’s only accumulated 870 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns, despite having three seasons in stripes. By mentioning how effective Mixon is when he does see the ball in the passing attack, Callahan could be gearing up to get him more involved in that aspect.
That would be a wise move on several fronts. Chief among them is Burrow’s affinity for throwing to running backs, and in doing so, the pressure on the rookie signal-caller’s shoulders would diminish greatly.
With Mixon carrying the load of the offense, opposing defenses will be forced to center their gameplan around him rather than Burrow, allowing the first-year player time to develop.
Once Burrow successfully transitions, the offense can alter back towards more of a 50-50 split. For now though, leaning on Mixon is a wise move, considering the unusual circumstances surrounding the season.
If Callahan’s comments do indeed hint towards a heavier workload for Mixon, don’t be surprised if the 24-year-old back takes yet another step in his career and puts the Bengals offense in a different stratosphere of production.