Joe Mixon isn’t usually included in the conversation of who is the best running back in the NFL, but his teammates believe he should be. Are they right?
There aren’t many running backs in the league who enjoyed a better Week 1 than Bengals’ star Joe Mixon. His success on the ground and in the passing game was a big key in Cincinnati’s 34-23 win over the Colts. His teammates believe there’s more to come from the second year player.
Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green is definitely a big fan of Mixon’s game. After the win over Indianapolis, he told reporters that the former Oklahoma star deserves to be considered one of the best backs in the league. Specifically, Green believes Mixon is “right there” with guys like Le’Veon Bell and Todd Gurley.
That sort of comparison is obviously premature. Mixon had a nice rookie season, but he didn’t give the Bengals anything close to All-Pro production. Rushing for 626 yards on 178 carries was a decent start to his career, but no one is going to celebrate a rushing average of 3.5 yards per carry.
That doesn’t mean Mixon can ascend to that sort of level in a hurry though. There’s never been a question regarding his on-field talent. His stock only dropped in the draft due to ugly off-the-field issues during his collegiate days. If he’s really changed his life and is focused entirely on football, the sky’s the limit for his NFL career.
His game against the Colts certainly was an excellent example of the type of production he is capable of providing the Bengals offense. He piled up 95 yards on 17 carries as the team’s primary back. That doesn’t tell the whole story of his impact on the game though. Mixon also caught five balls for 54 yards. His ability to impact the offense in multiple ways is going to drastically raise is stock around the league.
The biggest difference in Mixon’s game this season appears to be his explosiveness. Whether it’d due to getting in better shape or simply due to a heightened understanding of the offense, he looks a lot quicker out there. Having a 6-foot-1, 220 pound running back who moves like a wide receiver is going to give Cincinnati a lot of options on offense. Mixon is one of the rare backs in the league who can punish teams between the tackles with his size and make guys miss on the perimeter due to his elusiveness.
He’s definitely the guy the Bengals should be building their offense around. He doesn’t deserve to be in the conversation of who the best back in the NFL is yet, but he’s got the talent and offensive system to get there. Right now, he’s one of the most underrated running backs in football. If he plays a few more games like he did against the Colts on Sunday that’s going to change in a hurry. Running backs like Mixon don’t come around that often.