Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon walks the sidelines during NFL football practice in June at Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Photo: John Minchillo
Photo: John Minchillo

Bengals running back calls for whatever it takes

After A.J. Green’s ankle injury on Day 1, Mixon’s role could be even more important as Cincinnati gears up for the season.

The 2017 second-round draft pick already was anticipating more carries in Taylor’s West Coast offense, but now is the time to show he can handle it, he said. The Bengals put on their full pads for the first time Tuesday, and they are 11 days away from their first preseason game Aug. 10 at Kansas City.

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“Schematically, you know Coach Taylor has come in, the way he’s got it set up, it’s crazy,” Mixon said. “It’s night and day from what everyone has seen these past years from the old Bengals. Coach Taylor, he’s got it where it’s going to be a nightmare for the defense. I look forward to it. Everybody has to take it upon themselves to be the best of themselves in this offense. You can count on the people and leaders out there to deliver.”

The Rams, where Taylor served as quarterbacks coach and learned from Sean McVey, had the league’s fifth-most productive offense last year and rushed for 2,231 yards, which was third most in the NFL. Todd Gurley had 1,251 of those yards and 17 touchdowns.

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Mixon ranked fourth in the league, first in the AFC, just behind Gurley with 1,168 yards and eight touchdowns. He looks forward to the more offensive-minded approach Taylor is bringing to the team.

“The film speaks for itself,” he said. “You see the Rams running wild all day. We’ve got that same offense. I would think we have better players than them with these offensive weapons. I would think we can do the same stuff, if not more, than they can.”

The former Oklahoma standout was so excited about the potential of the offense he spoke for about 25 minutes with local media Friday when players first reported for camp. Mixon had dodged media throughout most of the offseason workout program, only giving one brief group interview on the last day of minicamp before breaking for the summer.

When asked why he suddenly is ready to speak up, Mixon said “because all of that before was just talk. Now it’s football.”

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Mixon said his focus this summer has been just making sure he’s in the best shape possible so he’s capable of handling, at a high level, whatever load the Bengals want to give him.

“(I will do) as much as I’ve got to do, individually and as a team to put ourselves on top,” Mixon said. “If it takes 250 (carries), I’m going to take 250. If it takes 400, that’s what I’m going to get. At the end of the day every touch counts. … I’ve always been a one-play-away guy until I just break and I’ll continue to do that. If it takes 400 touches, then that’s what I’m going to want.”

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The big question remains how well the offensive line will hold up with first-round draft pick Jonah Williams likely out for the season because of shoulder surgery and guard Clint Boling retiring for health reasons. The Bengals focused much of their attention in the draft and during the offseason trying to improve coverage in the run game only to have their plans thwarted. They continue to try to work players in and out to get the best five on the field but much remains to be seen as the pads come on.

Some national pundits already are predicting a rough season for the Bengals. USA Today predicted a 3-13 record and last-place finish, but Mixon said he is used to people underrating him and his team. He wasn’t ranked among the NFL Top 100 last year and ended up one of the top running backs.

“I’m not worried about it, honestly,” Mixon said. “I have to be that much better than everybody to be on that pedestal that they say those guys are. At the end of the day, I put that up on me to be that much better to be on that stage. When the time comes and I have to deliver, I’m going to do it.”

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