One of the Cincinnati Bengals' biggest issues so far this season is producing in the ground game. More specifically, they've gotten barely any production out of sixth-year veteran Joe Mixon, who is coming off his best season as a pro.
Through four games, Mixon has just 224 yards on the ground and a single score. Worst of all, Mixon is only averaging 2.7 yards/attempt, the lowest in his career up until this point. To put that into perspective, his second-lowest is 3.5 yards/attempt and that was in his rookie season where he was mostly sharing reps with Giovanni Bernard.
At some point, the question has to be asked: Did the Bengals make a mistake by extending Joe Mixon?
The answer is complicated. While, yes, Mixon's numbers are not great after the 1st quarter of the 2022 season, it doesn't tell the whole story. One big thing I have yet to bring up is the offensive line. They have improved since the first two games where they gave up 13 combined sacks against the Steelers and Cowboys, however, they still need to gel more before they can truly be considered a cohesive unit.
That's not to say Mixon is completely blameless, though. As I discussed in my article about the Bengals' problems with the run game, it looks like Mixon is not bouncing off defenders or breaking tackles like he was last year en route to his first Pro Bowl selection, which is concerning considering he's only 26 and should be just entering his prime, not already on the decline.
And, while it may not seem like it at the moment, the Bengals desperately need Mixon back to his usual self. Burrow and the passing game have been far too inconsistent to ditch the run and completely focus on passing for 60 minutes. They've managed to win their last two, however, they are going to need that rushing attack from last year back as they face harder opponents like the Chiefs, Bills, and Ravens, who they play this Sunday as the night game.
If the Bengals are going to make another run to the Super Bowl, they can't have a shallow offense that crumbles whenever Burrow does. Mixon needs to revert to 2021 form.
So, with all that said, did the Bengals make a mistake extending Mixon? In my opinion, it's too early to make that jump. Yes, Mixon hasn't looked all that impressive this year, but we are only four games in. I don't think it's time to press the panic button and label extending him as a mistake. This could just be a slow start to the season, and he is running behind an offensive line that's only just starting to figure things out.
I'd say if his struggles continue by Week 9 or 10, especially if he doesn't have at least one 100-yard performance on the ground by then, saying the extension was a mistake will have more weight to it. But as for right now, I believe it's too early to make that call, especially since he's coming off his best season yet as a pro.