Upon landing in Cincy as a second-round pick last year, Mixon recalled that he weighed 238 pounds at the time. In an effort to "get a step quicker," he's devoted his first full offseason as a professional to working out, instead of traveling the pre-draft circuit. He worked his way up the depth chart during his first campaign, leading all Bengals running backs in yards from scrimmage (913) and rushing yards (626) and matching Gio Bernard in total touchdowns with four. With a goal to lose five more pounds, Mixon likely hopes to improve upon a dismal mark of 3.5 yards per carry, and the departure of Jeremy Hill to the Patriots in free agency should give him enough extra touches to surpass the output from his rookie year.
Bengals player personnel director Duke Tobin said Wednesday that Mixon will act as the team's lead runner in 2018 and will be relied upon heavily, Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com reports. "Joe really came on for us in the later part of the [past] year, second half of the season. He's going to be our bell-cow running back," Tobin said. "We are going to combine him with [Giovani Bernard] and we really feel good about that position group."
As a second-round rookie out of Oklahoma, Mixon saw more limited usage behind starter Jeremy Hill (ankle) during the Bengals' first two games before effectively emerging as the top back on the depth chart for the bulk of the campaign. Though he battled an ankle injury over the final quarter of the campaign and yielded more work to Bernard, Mixon evidently made enough of an impression over his 14 games to earn the clear No. 1 role heading into 2018. In order to maintain the bell-cow role for the balance of the season and limit Bernard to change-of-pace work, however, Mixon will likely need to display more efficiency than he did during his first year in the NFL. Mixon's 3.5 yards per carry last season was the third-worst mark in the league for players who toted the ball at least 170 times, ahead of only Carolina's Jonathan Stewart (3.4) and Washington's Samaje Perine (3.4).
Mixon rushed 18 times for 96 yards and caught his lone target for one yard in Sunday's 31-27 win over the Ravens.
Mixon was rolling in the first half with 14 carries for 77 yards, but he also lost a second quarter fumble. The Bengals offense stalled for much of the second half until their game-winning drive in the game's final minute, which the rookie watched from the sideline. The 96 rushing yards are Mixon's second-highest total of the season, and allow him to finish on a high note after dealing with a concussion and ankle injury in December.
Mixon (ankle) is listed as active for Sunday's matchup against the Ravens.
Despite missing plenty of practice time this week, Mixon tested his ailing ankle on the field during pregame warmups, and the results were favorable enough to allow the back to suit up. Though Mixon has had some productive fantasy games in the second half of the season, he's a risky fantasy play given the fact that he may not be 100 percent, and that Giovani Bernard has been highly productive in his stead. Look for some type of timeshare between the two backs.
Updating a previous report, Mixon (ankle) is expected to play Sunday against the Ravens unless he experiences a setback during pregame warmups, Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com reports.
Mixon wasn't able to advance to full participation in practices this week after tweaking his left ankle in the Bengals' victory over the Lions in Week 16, but it looks like he's trending toward suiting up for the finale. Even so, it's not looking promising that Mixon will handle the lead-back role he's filled for much of the season, given how well Giovani Bernard has performed in the last several weeks and the fact that the rookie likely isn't fully healthy. Those concerns -- along with a matchup against a tough Baltimore defense -- may be enough reason to avoid using Mixon in Week 17 DFS contests.
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