Bengals: Running back position shaken up after preseason opener

Chris Evans and Jacques Patrick, Cincinnati Bengals. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Chris Evans and Jacques Patrick, Cincinnati Bengals. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Bengals have themselves a running back competition this season. Well, at least a battle for the No. 3 spot.

Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine have the top two spots locked, but the competition for third will be contested heavily among Chris Evans, Trayveon Williams, and Jacques Patrick.

The only way Patrick makes the cut is if he continues his impressive preseason performance. Against the Bucs, Patrick made a strong statement recording 15 carries for 71 yards. He was the Bengals’ rushing leader of the night, with Evans in second (12 carries for 25 yards) and Williams still out due to injury.

Evans played as a receiving back in Michigan but looked electric on the field on zone runs and scored Cincinnati’s lone touchdown.

Patrick, a former undrafted RB out of Florida State, played just as well as Evans in the preseason game but knows a roster spot will be especially difficult for him to win. Last year, Patrick spent most of the season on the Bengals’ practice squad and hardly made a noise.

The No. 3 running back spot on the Cincinnati Bengals is still up for grabs

But the name of the Bengals’ running back game isn’t just carrying the ball. The coveted roster spot may end up going to the back who can protect the pass the best.

In 2020, ex-running back Giovani Bernard thrived in his unique role as a backfield pass protector, when he would often chip a pass rusher near the line of scrimmage to buy Joe Burrow more time.

When Mixon missed games and Bernard slipped into his No. 1 running back spot, Perine took on Bernard’s duties and performed well enough to earn the starting position ever since Bernard left for Tampa Bay.

The Bengals running back unit as a whole values versatility given their dual responsibilities of as a ball-carrier and a pass-protector. Now, among the remaining three RBs, the competition will likely come down to who can protect Burrow better.

Patrick is currently trending upward, but it’s only preseason and anything – literally, anything – could happen.

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Will Evans, Patrick, or a rehabbing Williams win the No. 3 running back position? Their hopes lie in the Bengals’ game against Washington tomorrow night.