As the Pittsburgh Steelers try to figure out with their own ‘Bell’-cow running back, the Cincinnati Bengals are hoping to have found theirs in last year’s second-round draft pick, Joe Mixon. He is the third running back that the team has selected in the second round since 2013, but has the most complete skill set of the three.
During last week’s Combine, the Bengals’ personnel director told reporters that he anticipates Mixon will be their featured runner in 2018 which was not the case in 2017. Last year, they frequently utilized a heavy rotation of two or more running backs, and the rookie was frustrated with not getting more carries.
“Joe really came on for us in the later part of the year, second half of the season”, Tobin told reporters. “He’s going to be our bell-cow running back. We are going to combine him with [Giovani Bernard] and we really feel good about that position group”.
Bernard was the 2013 running back. In fact, the Bengals drafted him ahead of Le’Veon Bell that year. He has developed into more of a pass catcher, and was coming off a 2016 ACL tear while playing last year. The other running back, Jeremy Hill, was already expected to leave in free agency, but Tobin’s comments seem to affirm that.
Many regarded Mixon, in fact, as the most talented running back in last year’s draft class, or at least the second or third, but he was pushed to the second round for pretty significant reasons. As I’m sure most are aware, he punched a woman in the face a few years back. It’s on a security camera video. He has had other incidents as well that have raised flags.
The Bengals, naturally, were the team who felt comfortable enough taking on the red flags that he brought with him off the field, and I don’t believe he punched anybody last year. But this isn’t about his character (I mention this only to remind why he was available in the second round). This is about his future workload.
“I think in the long run, my prediction is someday we’re going to say yeah, this guy can do it all”, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said of the back. “He can pass protect, he can run, he can catch the ball. He’s a guy I think we’re going to be happy with as he keeps going”.
“I think Joe can be better. I’ve had a chance to go back and watch how he played” he went on to add. “I think we were excited as the season went on his advancement, his development. A couple of the injury things probably paused it at times, but I expect him to just catch right back up. And it’ll even accelerate”.