In a league where the value of dual-threat running backs increases by the season, Joe Mixon arrives at an opportune time.
After a pedestrian rookie campaign, the Cincinnati Bengals running back burst out in Sunday's opening-week win over the Indianapolis Colts. Mixon paced the Bengals with 17 carries for 95 and a touchdown and finished as the team's second-leading receiver with five receptions on seven targets for 54 yards, behind only A.J. Green.
His 149 all-purpose yards included two plays of 20-plus yards, and four 10-plus-yard gains. Green believes the second-year back deserves to be named with the likes of Le'Veon Bell and Todd Gurley as one of the league's best dual-threats.
"You mention him with Le'Veon or Gurley," Green said, via the team's official website. "He's there with those guys."
Much like the entire Bengals squad, Mixon got off to a slow start on Sunday. Andy Dalton was intercepted on his first pass of the game, a wayward screen to Mixon. After the sluggish start, the Bengals' offense picked up in the second half, scoring on their final three offensive possessions to secure the win.
The offense leaned on Mixon as they churned their way back into the ballgame. The more they used the back, the better Andy Dalton and the offense looked. The running back noted offensive adjustments made at the half that involved mixing up the inside and outside runs.
"I kept telling the receivers to keep doing their thing," Mixon said. "On the perimeter they were running the guys off or keep blocking and holding them off. I'm very excited. Marvin [Lewis] came in here [at half] and told us to settle down. Can't beat ourselves. We re-grouped and went one drive at a time. The line was great. They were grinding it and pounding it."
It was clear in the season opener that Mixon will be the Bengals workhorse tailback. He earned 82 percent of the offensive snaps to Giovani Bernard's 18 percent, per Next Gen Stats. Our own Maurice Jones-Drew predicted Mixon will push the 1,000/1,000 envelope. It's the type of three-down workload that backs like Bell, Todd Gurley and David Johnson enjoy. While the Bengals' young back isn't yet established in that group, he took a big step towards getting there on Sunday.