The hype around the 2021 NFL Draft is gone and OTA’s are now underway.
We’ve heard endless talk about a presumably lethal WR room that will feature Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and 5th overall pick Ja’Marr Chase. C.J. Uzomah is back, and according to him, he’s 100% healthy. Drew Sample should be primed for his best season yet. The less-than-satisfactory offensive line of 2020 welcomes four new additions to the team as well. More importantly, the team’s two weakest linemen were replaced by guys who should be much more plausible. Riley Reiff is in for Bobby Hart. A training camp battle between Xavier Sua’Filo, Quinton Spain and Jackson Carman will determine the guards in week 1. Yes, Michael Jordan is still on the roster. No, I do not think he will be a starter unless something goes horribly wrong. To go along with all of these additions, OL coach Frank Pollack is back in town. Oh, and that Joe Burrow guy is looking…ready!
A name that’s flying heavily under-the-radar? Joe Mixon. Mixon – who signed a 4 year, $48 million contract last September – is now among the highest paid running backs in the NFL. What he hasn’t done, however, is produce like the other running backs at the top of list. Whether it was from injuries, bad offensive line play, or just game flow due to trailing the opponent, Mixon has never really clicked on all cylinders consistently. This isn’t me saying that I don’t see Mixon’s superstar potential. I do. I think everyone does. But in order for the 2021 Bengals to exceed, or at least live up to the pre-season expectations, Joe Mixon needs to bloom now.
Joe Mixon Can’t Do It Alone
And that’s fine! In what should easily be a high-octane offense, he should have plenty of support. For starters, the addition of Ja’Marr Chase should spread the defense a lot more for the run game. Did I mention Frank Pollack is back in Cincinnati? Mixon led the AFC in rushing yards the last time Pollack was coaching the offensive line in front of him. “But the offensive line still sucks!” casual fans around the league say (yes, some of these people love the Bengals). The offensive line has every reason to improve drastically. To go along with the four additions I mentioned earlier, 2021 should bring some type of continuity to the unit. Last season, the team was throwing guys freshly signed off of waivers into the starting lineup that same week. Nobody can succeed that way.
Of course, Zac Taylor and Brian Callahan can not forget to involve Joe Mixon. Featuring him in the pass game is also something that will allow Mixon to earn his money. On the other side, Lou Anarumo and his defense need to be good enough to allow a balanced offensive attack. And at the end of the day, Joe Mixon must stay healthy and produce to live up to the juicy contract he’s now playing on.