Somehow, some way, Marvin Lewis is still the coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. After a late-season surge, Lewis, who was expected to be relieved of his duties, ended up securing a two-year deal from owner Mike Brown. The Bengals then shook things up considerably this offseason, making moves in the draft to improve the offensive line and letting Jeremy Hill walk.
The result SHOULD be a big season from Joe Mixon, according to Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer, who joined me on the Pick Six Podcast -- your daily does of NFL news, in your pod inbox by 6 a.m., every single weekday, subscribe: via iTunes | via Stitcher | via TuneIn | via Google Play -- to talk about the Bengals offseason.
Dehner thinks Mixon got a bad rap as a rookie last year, primarily because of the offensive line issues, and now could develop into the Bengals' version of Ezekiel Elliott. It's a bold comparison, but the teams just flipped offensive line coaches (a severely underrated story from this offseason, by the way) so maybe not so crazy after all.
"I think this offense is going to be based around what Joe Mixon can be. That's how they view it. I think they view him as their Ezekiel Elliott. They're going to come in with this Frank Pollock style, blow them off the ball, running game thing he specialized in there with Dallas. That's how Marvin Lewis wants to play, he wants to let his defense win games, he wants to run the football and he knows that will help Andy Dalton be better," Dehner explained. "Because when Andy Dalton has been at his best, it's when you're not trying to make Andy Dalton be more than he is. He's great at being what he is, when people try to make him more than he is, that's when things go sideways."
Plus, Mixon, as Dehner notes, actually played well down the stretch, only people weren't focusing on the Bengals, because they'd long ago wiggled their way out of playoff contention. Plus, he was getting hammered in the backfield.
"And Joe Mixon is that kind of back who can be special. You saw him start to be special as the season went along last year, when they let him get a rhythm, when they let him figure out how the line was going to be blocking in front of him," Dehner continued. "I've never seen a season where a running back, any running back, has had to take on more contact six yards behind the line of scrimmage. It seemed like every time he touched it, he was having to make two people miss before he could view where the line of scrimmage was, and his numbers were terrible because of it.
"So people will look at it and say 'well, he averaged 3.5 yards per carry' and this that and the other. Well, yeah, once they stopped doing this 'elephants on parade' sideline-to-sideline running style and just go straight ahead, they saw lots of success and they were actually a top-10 running team the last five weeks of the season. I actually think they can have a pretty special running game, and if they do that, their offense could clearly be special."
We also breakdown the Bengals' addition of Teryl Austin as defensive coordinator, the outlook for Tyler Eifert and what will happen to Marvin Lewis if the Bengals struggle out of the gate. Listen to the full episode below, give Dehner a follow on Twitter @PaulDehnerJr and subscribe here via iTunes | via Stitcher | via TuneIn | via Google Play