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Joe Mixon
NFL

How Much Work Is Too Much For Joe Mixon?

  • Ryan Fowler
  • September 14, 2022
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Herculean workloads have become a common trend in today’s game. From Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey to Green Bay’s Aaron Jones and New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara, the ability to produce both in the passing game and on the ground leaves little time to breathe for some of football’s most dynamic playmakers. For the Cincinnati Bengals, and an offense led by wonderboy Joe Burrow, Week 1 showcased running back Joe Mixon to the nines. 

With 26 attempts on the ground and nine targets through the air, it was a busy day at the office for one of the NFL’s top young talents. But how much is too much? Was Week 1 an outlier to the norm or a workload to get used to as the Bengals look to repeat as AFC champs?

The talent is obvious for Mixon—that’s not the question. And when you pull the lens back to see who’s around him, well, it’s an embarrassment of riches for Burrow under center and for offensive coordinator Brian Callahan. For Mixon, a three-time 1,000-yard rusher in the league, the ground game is where he’s made his money in his first handful of seasons. A blend of speed and power where his strength through contact and agility in open space stand out at the second level, Mixon’s touches through the air in Week 1 is what opened eyes. 

With seven receptions for 63 yards, he was second only to Ja’Marr Chase in those categories. The others? Tyler Boyd (four catches for 33 yards and a score) and Tee Higgins (two catches for 27 yards before leaving the game early after suffering a concussion). While Boyd and tight end Hayden Hurst were initially looked upon to step up behind Chase with Higgins on the shelf, it was Mixon who added food to his plate as the Bengals looked to pull away from the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first half.

On pace for more than 100 catches this year, if the issues within the front five continue for Cincinnati, I don’t see how Mixon couldn’t reach the century mark for the first time in his career. While additions were made in abundance in the trenches, Burrow was on his back for a majority of the afternoon. On passing downs, he often hit Mixon as the check down with limited time to dissect beyond the line of scrimmage. 

As it was last year, the line remains a massive issue which also affected the Bengals’ overall impact on the ground. While 27 carries usually usher a relatively easy path to 100 yards, Mixon was bottled up in the backfield early and often due to the lack of push up front and totaled just 81 yards (3.0 YPC) on the afternoon. 

For Cincinnati, the ability to win football games remains hand in hand with its prowess on offense each and every week. And right now, at least off of Week 1, Mixon could be the straw that stirs the drink for them to round into form. With a heavy workload on the ground and through the air, time will tell if Mixon’s body can hold up against that amount of touches over the physical nature of a 17-game slate. But he, like Chase, will be a featured weapon in this offense for years to come.