The results were a reflection of how Mixon’s rookie season has been so far: brilliant at times, but mixed overall.
Mixon clearly has the potential to be a star player, and that was on display in a 24-23 win against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. But as the Bengals (3-4) have struggled this season, their offense has tended to take a step back when needed the most.
Mixon was one of the few bright spots in a lackluster day against a Colts defense that had been struggling. That was obvious when he took a screen pass from Andy Dalton, broke several tackles and went 67 yards before he was taken to the ground. It was the best play of the day, and one of the few offensive highlights.
The Bengals’ offense has improved under Bill Lazor, but they haven’t been consistent at any position. Dalton has struggled along with his offensive line, and outside of A.J. Green the receivers haven’t stepped up. Mixon has shown the ability to create big plays out of nothing.
However, for all of his big moments, Mixon hasn’t been consistent from play to play. That could be attributed to a combination of the offensive line, the playcalling and Mixon himself. He ended the day with three catches for 91 yards, but also ran for only 18 yards on 11 carries.
His inexperience tends to show up at inopportune times. On Sunday, he repeated some of the same mistakes that have frustrated Bengals coach Marvin Lewis. Mixon stalled a drive in the red zone when he suddenly slipped and went down untouched. The same thing happened on a key red zone play against the Packers a few weeks ago.
He also fumbled the ball after catching a pass one-handed from Dalton. Mixon never secured the ball with both hands as he started running, and a defender punched it out. That led to a field goal by the Colts.
It’s the second straight week Mixon has lost the ball, although he was able to recover his fumble the week before. Mixon was benched for fumbling in the preseason, but on Sunday he was put back in on the next play.
Fumbling has always been something that’s irked Lewis, and he preaches ball security, pointing it out as part of his reasoning that Mixon should “show maturity” after his comments last week.
“You should show maturity just like everybody else,” Lewis said earlier this week. “Everybody wants to be out there all the time. But we’re not going to create a run when we are down by 12 or 15 [points]. We’re not going to create it. I saw a ball go on the ground when he received two balls thrown to him.”
Maturity will have to come with time. The Bengals are going to have to be patient with Mixon, but it’s clear he has potential.
With few other options stepping forward, Mixon looks like one of the few who has the ability to break out the big play, and at this point, the Bengals need that badly.