Cincinnati Bengals: Mixon wants to be ‘complete back’, could be focal point of offense

Going into the start of training camp Thursday, Cincinnati Bengals brass all seemed to be emphasizing one thing: The importance of quarterback Andy Dalton having a great year.

A few key players surrounding him could have a big impact on that — including a healthy Tyler Eifert, who begins camp on the physically unable to perform list — but running back Joe Mixon hopes to take off some of the pressure with a breakout sophomore season.

The Bengals’ 2017 second-round draft pick could be the focal point in offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s new playbook.

“I feel like it’s hopefully shaping up to be like that, but we shall see,” Mixon said prior to the team’s first practice Thursday afternoon.

»RELATED: 5 position battles to watch during training camp

The former Oklahoma University standout rushed for 626 yards and four touchdowns on 178 carries last year as a rookie, but he reported to camp about 10 pounds leaner, checking in at 218 pounds, and hopes that allows him to be a more complete back this season.

Mixon said in his best years with the Sooners he was playing around 216 pounds and that’s right where he would like to be by the end of camp.

»ARCHDEACON: Bengals owner weighs in on anthem debate

“I feel really good with where I’m at,” Mixon said. “I’m just going to do whatever I can to stay in shape and to be leaner and more active and see what I can do. The more I want to go harder and am able to go harder, it keeps me ready to go — it doesn’t get me to where I’m limited at first and second down. I am able to go on third down and be a complete back, do whatever I can do to succeed in this offense.”

With the help of a retooled offensive line under new position coach Frank Pollack, the running game appears to be a priority in Lazor’s first full season as offensive coordinator after replacing Ken Zampese following a Week 2 loss to Houston last fall.

»RELATED: Bengals weigh how much to use suspended Burfict in camp

Mixon became the team’s go-to back when Jeremy Hill was shut down with an ankle injury in November, and Hill’s departure to New England this offseason leaves little doubt Mixon is the guy in 2018. Giovani Bernard will factor in, as well, now having a full year playing on his reconstructed ACL.

“Coaches, they’ve got their schemes and what they’ve got going, and the line, we’ve had talks with them about the tempo and how we’re going to set it, how we’re going to run the ball and how physical up front they are going to be and how the running backs have to approach it,” Mixon said. “We’re all excited. It’s early but we’re going to do what we need to be successful.

»RELATED: How different will Bengals defense be in 2018?

“Our new line coach (Frank Pollack) came in with the mindset we’re going to run the ball. He came in preaching that since Day 1, so we’re following his lead and we’ll see how it works out.”

Head coach Marvin Lewis said the vertical passing game needs to be better in Dalton’s eighth season, after some struggles in that area last year, but Lazor noted Tuesday that the Bengals will need the running game to open that up a little more.

Former first-round pick John Ross, who comes in with high expectations after a strong showing this offseason, could be a good target down field if he is able to shake off an injury-riddled rookie season. And, the Bengals are still placing faith in Eifert after re-signing him to a one-year deal in March, despite neck and back issues plaguing his career to this point.

Eifert is able to come off the PUP list as soon as he is medically cleared before the season, but the fact he is starting camp on the sidelines leads to more questions how soon he will be ready to play.

“Hopefully Tyler Eifert can come back and be a factor for us,” Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin said Tuesday during the annual pre-camp media luncheon. “I can’t predict the future on that one, but I can testify to the fact that he made a difference when he was up and running for us. We know what he can do if he can get back to that level. I know his full intent is to get back to that level. We’ll see if he can.”

In the meantime, Mixon is feeling more confident about his ability to contribute after a season learning the ropes of the NFL. He is working toward what he hopes is a much-improved second year.

“I’m just coming in with the mindset that I’m going to come to work every day,” he said. “This is business, and I’ve got that mindset to whatever I’ve got to do to be successful and excel and to be ahead of everybody, that’s what I’ve got to do. I’ve had that mindset since we came off the season and I’m definitely going to stay focused and keep that mindset.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Sports

NBA star Russell Westbrook, wife Nina expecting twin girls
NBA star Russell Westbrook, wife Nina expecting twin girls

NBA star Russell Westbrook and his wife, Nina, announced Tuesday they are expecting twin girls in a YouTube video produced by the Oklahoma City Thunder. >> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news  The video is called "The Westbrook Family." Nina lets out the news they're having twins 2:12 into...
HS Results 9/18: Alter and Fenwick boys soccer tie 0-0

Boys Soccer Tuesday’s Results Alter 0, Fenwick 0 Beavercreek 3, Northmont 0 Bellbrook 1, Eaton 1 Butler 8, Greenville 1 Centerville 2, Springboro 0 Colerain 1, Oak Hills 1 Fairfield 1, Middletown 0 Fairmont 3, Miami Valley School 0 McNicholas 3, Badin 0 Miamisburg 3, Wayne 0 Middletown Madison 2, Carlisle 1 Milton-Union 4, Preble Shawnee 0 Monroe...
Buckeyes on the return of Urban Meyer to sideline: ‘He drives our culture’
Buckeyes on the return of Urban Meyer to sideline: ‘He drives our culture’

Life has returned to normal for the Ohio State Buckeyes in that they will play the remaining nine regular-season games with their head coach, Urban Meyer, on the sideline. His three-game suspension ended Saturday when Ohio State beat Texas Christian 40-28. The Buckeyes went 3-0 with Ryan Day serving as acting head coach and will run out of the tunnel...
Three area teams top regions in first OHSAA computer ratings
Three area teams top regions in first OHSAA computer ratings

Top-ranked Chaminade Julienne and Coldwater joined Bellbrook as the No. 1 teams in their respective regions of the first Ohio High School Athletic Association computer football ratings released on Tuesday. The ratings made their debut after Week 4 games. The Associated Press announced its first high school state football polls last week. CJ and Coldwater...
Cincinnati Bengals sign kicker Bullock to contract extension
Cincinnati Bengals sign kicker Bullock to contract extension

The Bengals on Tuesday rewarded kicker Randy Bullock for his reliability. The Bengals signed Bullock to two-year contract extension through the 2020 season. Bullock was in the final season of a two-year deal. »RELATED: Panthers’ offensive style presents challenges for Bengals Since joining the Bengals during the 2016 season, Bullock has...
More Stories