Position group breakdown: A closer look at Bengals’ running backs

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The Cincinnati Bengals’ running back group won’t draw a lot of attention since the departure of Joe Mixon this offseason, but the top two projected contributors in that room seem a fit for what the team wants as the offense evolves.

Newcomer Zack Moss brings a different skill set to the table, that could allow more outside runs and better pass protection to keep the plays less predictable when he’s on the field, and Chase Brown brings the “lightning” with explosive runs and runs after the catch.

Mixon was a reliable running back capable of getting yards on the ground during his time in Cincinnati, but it’s a new era. Let’s take a look at the performances of the Bengals’ current running backs last year and how they are expected to stack up in 2024 with help from some analysis and data from Pro Football Focus.

This is the second in a series of pieces breaking down each position group for the Bengals. Part 1, featuring the quarterbacks, ran Tuesday.


Starter: Zack Moss

Reserves: Chase Brown, Trayveon Williams

Others in the mix: Chris Evans, Noah Cain, Elijah Collins


*Stats with the Indianapolis Colts

2023 stats*: 794 yards rushing, 5 TDs on 183 attempts (4.3 yards per carry); 192 yards receiving and 2 TDs on 27 catches; 986 yards from scrimmage

PFF grades for 2023: Moss ranked 42nd of 59 qualifying halfbacks with a 66.9 overall grade. He was 35th of 52 halfbacks in run grade (72.8), and he was 52nd among 56 halfbacks in receiving grade (43.9) but posted a 60.9 pass blocking grade, a number that was impacted by three really low grades.

No projections for 2024


2023 stats: 179 yards, 0 TDs on 44 carries; 156 yards receiving, 1 TD on 14 catches; 335 yards from scrimmage

PFF grades for 2023: Brown received an overall grade of 63.9, a rushing grade of 59.0 and a receiving grade of 81.1, but he did not have at least 20 percent of the league-highest volume so he was not given a ranking by position.

No projections for 2024


2023 stats: 15 carries for 69 yards (4.6 yards per attempt); 7 catches for 10 yards; no TDs

PFF grades for 2023: Williams received an overall grade of 58.9, a rushing grade of 61.6 and a receiving grade of 51.1, but he did not have at least 20 percent of the league-highest volume so he was not given a ranking by position.

No projections for 2024


PFF ranks the Bengals running back unit as the third weakest in the league going into the season, ahead of only the Raiders and Cowboys, while the 49ers ranked as the best. But, analysts looking at data from last year won’t see the full picture of how Moss and Brown will likely play much different roles in Cincinnati’s offense this season.

Trevor Sikkema wrote: “The Bengals signed Zack Moss this offseason to replace Joe Mixon, who the team traded to the Texans. Moss has recorded steady rushing grades in the 70.0s in each of his four seasons with a healthy yards per carry average right around 4.0. Cincinnati also has Chase Brown, their fifth-round pick from 2023, to bring some added speed to the backfield. Brown had a tough rookie season, recording a 59.0 rushing grade.”

The Bengals don’t need a dominant running back group, just an effective one.

Moss has never been the main guy in a running back room but showed potential of carrying the load if needed last year when he was with the Colts and Jonathan Taylor was out. He also takes pride in being a solid pass protector, though he wasn’t put in the best situations to display that last year in Indianapolis. It’s notable that Moss had his best season with the Buffalo Bills in 2020, posting a 72.3 overall grade and a career-high PFF pass-blocking grade of 78.9.

Brown could also be a difference-maker if he continues the upward climb he was on at the end of his rookie season last year. Bengals coach Zac Taylor liked the way he tackled areas to improve during the offseason, and big things could be in store if he is able to translate that to games.

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