Mixon’s future, Bernard's usage and the rest of the Bengals running backs
Joe Mixon was the Bengals' best player during the second half of last season. He ran for 817 yards and five touchdowns in the final eight games of the year.
Mixon's future in Cincinnati is uncertain as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. Extension talks appear to be headed in the right direction, but nothing is imminent.
The 23-year-old could carry the load in the Bengals’ backfield for years to come if they’re able to sign him to a long-term extension.
Let’s take a look at Mixon and the rest of the running back room.
Joe Mixon – 6’1”, 220 pounds
Signing Mixon to a long-term extension is a top priority for Duke Tobin and the Bengals.
He’s had back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons and was the AFC’s rushing leader in 2018. Mixon is second in the NFL with forty-three runs of 10+ yards since 2017 according to Pro Football Focus. Ezekiel Elliott (46) is the only player ahead of him.
Joe Burrow’s rookie success will not only depend on Mixon's rushing skills. His ability to catch out of the backfield should be a big part of the Bengals offense.
Mixon has 108 catches for 870 yards during his first three seasons. Those numbers should rise with Burrow under center.
Mixon’s explosiveness and strength are two of his best attributes. Nearly 57 percent of his rushing yards (645) came after contact in 2019.
Despite the inconsistent play from the offensive line, Mixon showed the rest of the NFL his true potential in the second half of last season. The Bengals are expecting a similar performance from him this year, even if they can't agree to a long-term extension.
Giovani Bernard – 5’9”, 205 pounds
Bernard enters 2020 with a chance to become the Bengals’ all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards by a running back. He has 295 career receptions and 2,512 receiving yards. Only James Brooks had more in his career (297 and 3,012).
Bernard should easily break Brooks’ reception record this season, but he hasn’t topped 500 yards receiving since his rookie campaign in 2013.
Bernard is an underrated weapon in the Bengals offense. He can play on all three downs and is another dynamic pass catcher out of the backfield.
Prior to last season, Bernard signed an extension through the 2021 season. His 2019 campaign was a disappointment. He finished with career lows in touches (83) and yards from scrimmage (404). After a disappointing season, Bernard could be a potential cap casualty.
That isn’t how the Bengals generally operate, but it's worth noting.
Bernard brings stability with the uncertainty surrounding Mixon’s future in Cincinnati.
Trayveon Williams – 5’8”, 206 pounds
After missing time due to injury at the beginning of last season, Williams appeared in 11 games games in 2019. He did not rush or receive the ball, but played an important role on special teams.
Life in the NFL was an adjustment for Williams. He had to learn a whole new position on special teams and not be ‘the guy’ that he had been during his collegiate career at Texas A&M. He set the Aggies’ single-season rushing record in 2018.
Williams will primarily contribute on special teams again this season, assuming Mixon and Bernard stay healthy.
Rodney Anderson – 6’0”, 224 pounds
Anderson missed his entire rookie season with a torn ACL. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time he’s had to recover from a devastating injury.
He broke his left leg just two games into his freshman season and missed the entire 2016 campaign due to a fractured vertebrae in his neck. He’s also suffered two torn ACLs. His injury history was a big reason why he was still available for the Bengals in the sixth-round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Anderson finished his college career with 1,285 rushing yards and sixteen touchdowns. He also had 281 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
Anderson has a high ceiling, which is why the Bengals drafted him, despite his injury history. If he can stay healthy, he has the talent to contribute on offense.
Rest of the Room:
Samaje Perine – 5’11”, 240 pounds
Perine rejoined the Bengals this offseason. The team claimed him off waivers after he was released by Miami. He spent time on both the Bengals’ practice squad and the active roster last season. The Dolphins signed him to their active roster in December.
Perine has started eight games in his NFL career. He’s rushed for 651 yards on 188 attempts and one touchdown. He also has 25 receptions for 187 yards and one score.
He needs to thrive on special teams if he’s going to make the team.
Jacques Patrick – 6’2”, 234 pounds
Patrick signed with the team this offseason coming from the XFL’s Tampa Bay Vipers. He rushed for 254 yards on 60 attempts. The Florida State alum is a long-shot to make the roster.
Whaley joined the Bengals as an undrafted free agent out of Arkansas. The 22-year-old finished with 1,807 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns in four seasons.
He was one of the highest-ranked running backs in the country coming out of high school. His college career got off to a promising start. He played in all 13 games as a true freshman, rushing for 602 yards on 5.5 yards-per-carry and three touchdowns. He added six receptions for 139 more yards.
Unfortunately, those were the best numbers of his career. He started 11 games as a sophomore, but he averaged 4.4 yards-per-carry on 127 attempts and finished with 559 rushing yards. He began the 2018 season as a starter, but he only appeared in seven games because of injuries.
Whaley has talent, but the lack of production kept him from being drafted. He’ll compete with Anderson, Perine and Patrick for a roster spot.