Bengals’ running back Chase Brown looks to ‘build on’ strong finish to rookie season

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

CINCINNATI — Chase Brown gave himself something to build off at the end of his rookie season, and now the Cincinnati Bengals running back hopes to use a strong individual finish as a springboard to a big jump in Year 2.

The departure of Joe Mixon also opens up more opportunity for a young player like Brown — even with the arrival of Zack Moss, who signed as a free agent following a year and a half with the Indianapolis Colts. Moss comes with something to prove as well after mainly playing in a two-back system with the Colts.

Brown, a fifth-round draft pick last year out of the University of Illinois, showed promise for the future with most of his production coming over the final six games, as he finished with 179 yards on 44 carries and 156 yards receiving on 14 catches in 12 games.

“This is my second time around so the playbook’s not new, the coaches aren’t new, the guys in the locker room aren’t all new, so you kind of feel like you’re at home and that’s kind of how I feel right now,” Brown said Monday as the team began its offseason workout program. “But what I want to do most is just build on last year — kind of turned it on more at the end of last season —and just help this team win games in any way possible and just be a complete player.”

Brown was just getting more involved in the offense last season when he injured his hamstring in a practice coming back from the bye week. He missed four games, which could have been viewed as a big setback; however, he enjoyed a breakout game in Week 13 when he rushed nine times for 61 yards in a 34-31 win at Jacksonville on Monday Night Football.

That set the tone for more consistent opportunities down the stretch, and Brown recorded 173 yards on 42 carries over the final six games, along with 11 catches for 149 yards and one receiving touchdown.

Brown went into the offseason on a mission to come back ready to do even more in 2024.

“I just want to become more fluid, work on my hands, work on my pass protection, just be a better all-around player coming back, and I feel confident that I accomplished all that this offseason,” Brown said.

At the time of the injury, Brown had reached a point where he was comfortable in the playbook and ready to take on more of a load.

While it was frustrating to be sidelined, Brown said he didn’t feel a need to change anything about the way he prepares to ensure it doesn’t happen again. He described it as a fluke injury — one he hasn’t thought about since he returned to the field.

“It’s just giving my all here, giving my all mentally and I’ll be fine,” Brown said. “My body, I think just coming out of the bye week and running full speed early in the week just got me there, but now I’m in a completely different place, coming off a strong offseason, going into Year 2, I’m in a great head space and my body feels good, so I’m not worried about that.”

Brown said he was surprised by Mixon’s departure, but he plans to take advantage of that transition period for the Bengals. For him, it’s a bigger opportunity to show he is ready to take on more responsibility out of the backfield.

The Bengals ended up trading Mixon to the Houston Texans after initially making a decision to release him.

“He’s done so much for this team, this city, the fanbase, we’re going to miss him,” Brown said of Mixon. “I gave him a call just to see how he’s doing, just what his mindset was, but yeah, no, he’s definitely in a good place. The Texans are going to be a great city for him, he’s going to kill it out there so I’m excited for him in that sense, but opens up a lot of opportunity over here and I’m excited to get back to work with Chris (Evans) and Tray (Williams) and Zack (Moss) and just kind of mold this running back room into something new.”

Moss signed as news of the Bengals’ decision to release Mixon surfaced, and Brown said he messaged Moss on Instagram to welcome him to the team but they had not yet spoken or met in person until Monday when Moss arrived for the offseason workout program.

Brown said he looks forward to seeing what Moss adds to the running back room, but it’s too early to know what the dynamics of that group will be like in the change from Mixon to Moss.

“There’s a huge opportunity for the guys in that room however that plays out,” Brown said. “We’ll see, but it’s just taking it one day at a time and getting to know the new guys that just came in and making the most of that and once training camp comes around and the real competition and real evaluation of how that will play out, we’ll see then.”

One thing is for certain: Brown is built to handle whatever load the Bengals want to give him. His final season at Illinois in 2022, he carried the ball 328 times for 1,643 yards and 10 touchdowns, finishing third in the nation in rushing yards per game (136.9) and fourth in total rushing yards.

Brown was a Doak Walker Award finalist in 2022, as one of the top three running backs in college football.

“I did it in college,” Brown said of his ability to handle a large workload. “That’s why we’re in this building. I think everybody in here has the same mindset of competing and producing in any way they can, and that’s just my mindset every day, and however that comes, I am ready to take on whatever comes my way.”

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