By Nick Shook
Around The NFL writer
Read full post on NFL.com
We’re mostly past “I’m in the best shape of my life” season, but are circling back for one more notable weight-loss journey.
Bengals running back Joe Mixon — not known as a chunky back — has shed some pounds in the offseason, trimming from 230 to 218, per the team’s official site. How did Mixon do it, you ask? It wasn’t a fad diet or something purchased from an infomercial. Mixon lost the weight by (unsurprisingly) working out consistently in the sweltering climates of Norman, Oklahoma, and Oakland, California.
The bigger surprise here, though, is that he needed to lose it at all. Mixon looked like a back who was just one block or cut away from making big plays in preseason action and during the regular season. Weight didn’t seem to be an issue.
“I was working in that heat,” Mixon said of his offseason training. “I feel like that’s where I play my best. I was trying to get low last year but I wasn’t able to make it. I feel real good. My body feels real good. I feel like I’m in really good shape.”
Twelve pounds doesn’t sound like much, but for a running back in a high-speed league, it can make a massive difference. It can also explain why Mixon didn’t end up turning many heads as a rookie.
There’s also the case of Cincinnati’s offensive line, which could be lightly described as “in transition” but more aptly called putrid in 2017. Cincinnati’s 85.4 rushing yards per game (ranked 31st in the league) can be cited as one example of such poor performance. Its 40 sacks and 64 pressures allowed can be another. And worst of all is the game tape.
A Bengals legend wasn’t afraid to cite the position group as a reason for Mixon’s slow start to his pro career.
“People fail to realize that without an offensive line … I don’t care how good of a running back he is. Without an offensive line, it’s hard,” former Bengals star running back Ickey Woods said. “When we had our (guy) Hue Jackson here, Hill ran the ball real well because the offensive line fired out. After Hue left, (former Bengals offensive line coach Paul) Alexander went back to that zone blocking crap and we got our butts kicked. Hopefully this new O-line coach can light a fire under those guys and open some holes out there.”
That’s a scathing review from a Bengals alumnus, but many fans who endured watching Mixon grind to a 3.5 yards-per-carry average in 2017 will conclude it is a correct one. Cincinnati has since attempted to address the issue, selecting Ohio State center Billy Price in the first round of the 2018 draft and acquiring tackle Cordy Glenn to fill the massive void left by the 2017 departure of Andrew Whitworth.
If the offensive line is patched up, Woods thinks Mixon can become the guy in Cincinnati. And he’ll be a slender guy if that happens.
“He can definitely be a bell cow,” Woods said. “A 1,000-yard back. A 1,300-1,400 yard back if he has the right offensive line in front of him. He can average 80, 90 yards a game and be right there.”