The last time Joe Mixon played in a full NFL game, he scored a franchise-record five touchdowns in a Bengals rout of Carolina. After a slow start, Mixon appeared to be hitting his stride at the perfect time.
It didn't last long, however, as Mixon sustained a concussion during the Bengals' next game. Mixon spent the next two games on the sideline, while his team put together impressive wins over the Titans and Chiefs to advance to 8-4 after an 0-2 start to the season. Mixon is hoping to pick up where he left off when the Bengals play host to the Browns on Sunday. Mixon expects to play after being a full participant during the Bengals' last two practices.
"I thought I was getting started," Mixon said, via CLNSMedia. "I felt it coming, but it's just a little setback. I know I'm going be there, and I know what I'm capable of doing."
Samaje Perine, the Bengals' third-down back who was Mixon's teammate at Oklahoma, shined during Mixon's absence. He caught three touchdown pass in Cincinnati's Week 11 win over Pittsburgh. He had 93 all-purpose yards and a touchdown on 21 touches the following week in Nashville. He had his third career 100-yard rushing performance (and first since 2017) in last Sunday's win over Kansas City.
Perine's success apparently led some to question whether or not a change would be made to the Bengals' starting backfield. Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor ended such thoughts on Wednesday.
"Joe Mixon is our starting running back. In the last (full) game he played in, he had five touchdowns, tremendous effort," Taylor said. "And Samaje has done a really good job filling in. And so, to have those two guys that you've got a lot of confidence in, whatever the moment calls for, we think that's very valuable to have, especially going into this late-season stretch, and hopefully beyond that."
Mixon, who said that he was not surprised to hear Taylor reinforce his role as a starter, was happy to see Perine make the most of his opportunity.
"It's a great thing to see," Mixon said. "Perine stepped in and did everything I knew he was capable of doing. He's always been solid."
A Pro Bowler last season, Mixon is looking forward to making his mark on Sunday in a game between Ohio's two NFL teams. Cleveland has had Cincinnati's number in recent years. The Browns that includes Cleveland's 32-13 win on Halloween.
"Each week's going to get bigger and bigger," Mixon said of Sunday's matchup. "As much as people thought last week was, this one is even bigger. We've just got to come out here and take care of business come Sunday."
Mixon will benefit by playing behind an offensive line that has played an integral role in the team's four-game winning streak. The Bengals' revamped offensive line includes four new starters: veterans La'el Collins, Ted Karras, Alex Cappa and rookie Cordell Volson.
"It's a very special offensive line,"following Sunday's win over the Chiefs. "I've played on some really, really great ones. We've got a lot of work to do, but we've got a lot of great guys in the room that love football. When you've got guys that love ball, you're going to get the most out of those guys. We looking forward to going out there and playing because we've got such great coaches that prepare us the right way."
Mixon's fantasy projection
Sans his breakout game against the Panthers, Mixon has not run for over 82 yards in any other game this season. He ran for just 27 yards on eight carries in Cincinnati's Week 8 loss to Cleveland but did manage to catch seven passes for 32 yards.
Given the fact that he is rested, along with the fact that the Bengals offensive line continues to improve on a weekly basis, a 100 all-purpose yard, one-touchdown game is certainly feasible for Mixon on Sunday. That said, expect Perine to continue to get steady work after shining on his increased role over the past two weeks.