Following up on the ongoing story
. ... As Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson advised readers, no one is going to ever point to Bengals running back Joe Mixon
and say the man has tanked it. Just look at last Sunday’s second half against the Browns, an all-out effort that yielded 89 yards rushing and 66 yards receiving despite that 28-0 hole.
Not only that, the Bengals radio booth of Dan Hoard and Dave Lapham pointed out his willingness to block the blitz.
Mixon may be in just in his second year, but he sounded like he warmed to the role of grizzled vet as he rallied his guys for Sunday’s Paul Brown Stadium game against the Broncos.
“I play the game with passion, energy. I try to do whatever I can to bring my teammates along to the level of play I feel we can play at,” Mixon said before Wednesday’s practice. “It's been frustrating because we haven't as a whole, 11 people on offense, but at the same time, a lot of people look at me as the spark, so I take it upon myself and I take it personally that I’ve got to go make that play and I've got to get my team going
"When I do that, everybody feeds off it, whether it's offense or defense. No matter how tough the game is going, I'm never going to quit. I don't care how much we are down, I don't care how much we're up, I'm still going to do the same thing start to finish. I play off a lot of emotion.”
But Mixon leads on the field as well.
In the last five games, if Mixon hits his per game paces of 75 yards rushing and 27 yards receiving, he’ll be the first Bengals running back since James Brooks in 1986 to catch at least 378 yards while running for 1,000.
This week, the absence of quarterback Andy Dalton
may lead to a more conservative strategy focusing on running the ball, especially after Mixon rushed for 89 yards last week and especially since Denver owns the league's 24th-ranked run defense.
In the Baltimore loss, the Bengals had Mixon and Giovani Bernard
on the field at the same time for five snaps but last week it was only two. Mixon also thrived in the two-minute offense by gaining 53 yards on a 75-yard scoring drive after the Bengals were down 28-0.
Also of interest. ... A.J. Green
is expected to return and will face a defense ranked 24th in passing yards. According to the Sports Xchange, Green did not seem to be bothered by the toe injury that kept him out the previous three games when he practiced Wednesday.
In a related note. ... John Ross
has scored one touchdown in each of the three games Green has missed, but even if Green misses more time, ESPN's Mike Clay believes Ross remains a risky fantasy play.
Clay explained that Ross' usage has been solid (either six or seven targets in the three games), but the efficiency has been a problem. He has hauled in only 14 (or 39 percent) of 36 targets and is averaging 4.9 yards per target. A whopping and league-high 42 percent of balls thrown his way have been off target (minimum 25 targets).
Clay summed up: "Ross should be on benches if Green returns and is no more than a flex if Green remains out."
Adding to that, expect the Broncos do everything they can to limit the Bengals effectiveness by getting pressure on quarterback Jeff Driskel
, who is making his first NFL start for the injured Dalton.
If the Broncos can bottle up the running game that will give edge rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb plenty of opportunities to get to Driskel -- even though it sounds like Mixon is eager to do something about that.