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Cincinnati Bengals

What’s Wrong with Joe Mixon?

In 2021, Joe Mixon had a spectacular year. He gained a career-high 1519 yards from scrimmage and racked up 16 touchdowns, 7 more than his next highest season. Mixon’s career year was a major factor in the Bengals overperforming their preseason expectations. His success on the ground opened up the air attack for Joe Burrow and his collection of weapons. In the Bengals playoff run, Mixon had 2 games with 100+ scrimmage yards. Mixon and the Bengals’ rushing attack has been bad, but is it really his fault?

Starting with the situation, there is a clear downgrade in blocking. In 2021, the line had a 64.1 run-blocking grade, 20th in the NFL. In 2022, this line has graded at 49.6 so far, second last in the NFL. With all the turnovers on the offensive line, this is not shocking. What is shocking, and simply unacceptable, is Jonah Williams being as bad as he has been so far. Williams is the only piece who survived the offensive line overhaul, but he’s been the worst of the 5 this year.

Last year, Jonah Williams had a 75.6 run blocking grade, good for 15th in the league among tackles with 250+ snaps. This year, Williams has a 46.5 run blocking grade, second last among tackles with 80+ snaps. Rookie Cordell Volson has been horrific in run blocking too, with a 48.6 run-blocking grade. That ranks Volson 58th out of 63 qualified guards. Free agent acquisitions Ted Karras, La’el Collins, and Alex Cappa all have been relatively average so far in run blocking, with Collins being the best of the bunch.

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Mixon’s numbers are evidence that this has at least some factor in his poor play. On runs going to the left, Mixon has 45 attempts and is averaging 3 yards per carry. When going to the right, Mixon is averaging 3.6 yards per rush on 58 attempts. Even with the line being bad, there are some things Mixon can control. In 2021, Mixon gained about 3 yards after contact on each carry, which put him 12th in the league among guys with 150+ attempts. Among guys with 50+ attempts this year, Mixon is only gaining 2.06 yards after contact per carry. That ranks dead last in the NFL and is an entire yard lower than his mark last year.

What The Numbers Say For Mixon

One problem is Mixon has been bad at making people miss. According to www.playerprofiler.com, he has only forced 14 missed tackles, 38th in the NFL. PlayerProfiler has a juke rate metric, which is essentially just missed tackles divided by touches. Mixon’s 10.9% juke rate is 53rd in the NFL. For context, his juke rate is less than half of his 2021 mark of 22.8%. rbsdm.com, a site known for its EPA/play metric, has the Bengals rushing attack in the bottom 5.

Through Week 6, the average run play for the Bengals has caused them to lose 0.2 expected points on the given drive. This is 0.15 below the median EPA/rush, which adds up over the course of a game, drive, and eventually the entire season. RYOE, or rushing yards over expected, is a metric that uses player tracking to determine how a player has been compared to the league average. Mixon’s expected yards per carry is 4.02, and his real yards per carry is 3.27, making his RYOE/att -0.75. Not a great start to the season for a guy who looked like a top-10 back last year.

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The Bengals’ run game has been flat-out bad. It has been a brutal start for almost everyone involved in it. While this is true, better days might be ahead for this rushing attack. Through weeks 1-4, the Bengals faced 3 of the 10 toughest defenses in terms of yards per carry allowed. In weeks 5-6, there has been some hope for them. He is averaging 5.6 yards per carry on 22 attempts in these weeks. His yards after contact per attempt is 2.82, way closer to last year than his mark this year. His EPA/rush over the last 2 weeks is 0.2, a stark contrast from the -0.22 in weeks 1-4. His RYOE has leaped from -1.11 per carry in Weeks 1-4 to 0.56 per carry in Weeks 5 and 6. This trend is a positive sign, and the Bengals face 4 bottom half teams in terms of run defense in their next 6 games. The Mixon bounceback has started, and it should continue based on the upcoming matchups.

Written By

Contributing Writer for Bengals Breakdown

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