CINCINNATI — Any questions regarding last season's episode should have been answered.’s ability to be one of the NFL’s best running backs.
He is now in his fifth season with theMixon's best performance to date. Mixon was one of the most productive players at this position, earned his first Pro Bowl selection and even threw a touchdown pass in the Bengals’ first Super Bowl appearance in 33 years.
Yet the lingering question about Mixon’s capability as an all-purpose back still remains. His status as a receiver is a hot topic with fantasy football managers and fans alike since his college days at Oklahoma when he caught passes like a pro.
But the numbers from Mixon’s 2021 season and comments from Bengals coach Zac Taylor suggest the question has already been answered.
“To make a statement that we can get more out of Joe [Mixon] in the passing game, that's got to pull from somewhere,” Taylor said on May 31 following an offseason workout. “Then we'll be talking about why there wasn't as much production from[or] ].”
Taylor speaks out about the dilemma the Bengals found themselves in when they selected the wide receivers for the 2020 and 2021 drafts, respectively. They are both veteran wide receiversTight end – recently-departed Finding the right balance for ball distribution was going be difficult.
We project the final 53-man rosters of all 32 NFL teams ahead of NFL training camps.
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It was a success in 2021. Chase was the Associated Press NFL Rookie-of-the Year and set the franchise record (1,455) for receiving yards. Higgins also cleared the 1,000 yard mark. Uzomah had a great career year, earning him a $24 million contract for three years..
Mixon was greater than any of them.
Mixon rushed for 1,205 yards last season, a record-setting feat that was third in the NFL. Mixon was fourth in each category among NFL running backs with 1,519 yards rushing and 16 total offensive touchdowns.
However, the majority of his damage was done at the ground. He ranked 18th in receiving yards among running backs and 25th in total targets.
Being on the field in more passing situations, specifically on third downs, could increase Mixon’s potential target share. But Mixon’s current usage makes that a tricky situation.
Mixon was in the field for 64%, which was the fourth highest number of total Cincinnati team snaps among all running backs. Mixon was on the field for 64% of Cincinnati's total team snaps, which was fourth-highest among all running backs according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
Mixon was on the field for 75% of the team’s first and second downs while, the team’s second-string running back, had a 16% snap share in those circumstances. These numbers changed on third downs of three yards or more. Perine received 64% of the snaps while Mixon’s share dropped to 17%.
Mixon was challenged by the coaching staff to improve his pass protection after being released by the Bengals' veteran.. Mixon made great strides in this area, but Perine effectively assumed Bernard's role in most passing situations. Perine even did 2-minute drills.
“If we’re going to take [Mixon] out on a down, I rather take him out on third down so he’s good for first and second down, ultimately,” said Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan.
Mixon cannot play in situations where he is highly leveraged, like a key third and 1 late in Super Bowl LVI. Perine was stopped for no gain because of the current structure. Callahan seemed to suggest there was room for some flexibility in ’22 that allows for Mixon to see more third-down snaps while balancing his overall workload.
“You’re never going to have him take that many snaps, especially if you want to keep him fresh over the course of the season,” Callahan said. “But at the end of the day, I’d like to see maybe a little bit more usage for him on third down.”
Mixon's thoughts are unclear on the topic. He did not speak to reporters following Super Bowl LVI and did not hold any press conferences during the team’s offseason workouts.
But Mixon’s body of work during the first five years of his career speaks volumes. Last year’s numbers provided strong early returns on the four-year, $48 million contract extension he signed in 2020. And he’s fit into an offense that could be poised for a big season in 2022.