Joe Mixon knows he’s going to have to be better for rookie Ryan Finley to have success as the Cincinnati Bengals’ new starting quarterback.
The entire offense is going to have to step up, but Mixon said he should be doing more regardless, and he hopes to do more over the final eight games.
The third-year running back has just 320 yards on 101 carries (3.2 yards per carry) and no touchdowns this season after leading the AFC with 1,168 yards in 2018. The Bengals (0-8), coming back from a bye, open the second half of the season Sunday at home against Baltimore (6-2).
“Everybody knows that I’m frustrated,” Mixon said. “Who wouldn’t be frustrated? I feel like I should be putting up way better numbers than what I’m putting up right now. To go from first in the AFC in rushing and … we’re probably last right now in the AFC. It’s embarrassing to me. That’s not my expectation and it shouldn’t be anybody else’s expectation.”
Mixon said he’s not complaining about a lack of carries because he understands the Bengals have been playing from behind too often and even early in games he’s been limited at times because of penalties putting the offense in more passing situations.
When the opportunities do come, Mixon said he needs to take advantage – like he did during the three-game stretch between Week 3 and Week 5 when he averaged 4.4 yards per carry.
“When that time comes I get in the open field, I’ve got to make it count because those are limited, but, at the same time, I’ve got to be able to make them big plays,” Mixon said. “There’s a lot of games left and a lot of season left, so hopefully I can make this the best eight games of my career here so far. I’ve got my work cut out for me, but I’m here to make it happen.”
The Bengals had some success with Mixon in the first half against the L.A. Rams before the bye, but again, the game got away from them. He recorded 53 of his 66 yards in the first half and said the use of some two-tight end packages helped.
Mixon would love to see more 12 personnel with two tight ends and in a dream world even having a fullback blocking in front of him.
“It’s always great to see plays like that,” Mixon said. “At the end of the day, that’s you playing football. Hat on a hat, smashmouth, downhill running. That’s how I like it. At the end of the day, I like 11 personnel, too. I like having three receivers and I like having the tight end with Eifert out there, but at the same time, when you want to play downhill, smashmouth, like how the Ravens like to play football, at the end of the day you’ve got to take it to these dudes. That’s just what the reality of football is.”
The Bengals have talked about using Mixon more in the passing game, but he’s never been targeted more than five times in any game this season. He caught four passes on four targets for 11 yards against the Rams and said he’s capable of doing more in that aspect.
“They’ll figure it out,” Mixon said. “I’m not here to cry and complain about it. They’ll figure it out. If they feel like they don’t need me to touch the ball in the passing game, honestly, that’s what they feel. I don’t control the play calling or where Ryan (Finley) or Andy (Dalton) checks down the ball or even if it’s designed to me. I’m not the one to do that. But at the same time, hopefully they’ll figure out ways to get me the ball. Hopefully.”
Mixon said he doesn’t want to make it look like he’s “bigger than everybody else” by trying to answer how he can become more of a factor, but he knows he is capable of doing more because he was still able to lead the AFC last year while playing on a team that finished 6-10 and lost seven of the last eight games.
During the month of December, Mixon rushed for 495 yards and three touchdowns on 95 carries (5.2 yards per carry) while the Bengals went 1-4. That was all with a backup quarterback, too, as Jeff Driskel had replaced Dalton following a thumb injury.
“I’m not here to bad mouth nobody,” Mixon said. “I’m not here to say ‘Oh, we suck. Oh, I’m not getting the ball.’ I’m not here to do that. That’s not what I do. Honestly, I don’t care about none of that other stuff. I’m not frustrated with my team, I’m not frustrated with Zac. I’m frustrated with myself because I’m not putting up what I know I could do. It is what it is. I can only hope for the best and for us to get better. That’s how I look at it, and that’s who I’m going to keep looking at it. In the meantime, keep going hard, keep practicing hard and hope for the best.”
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