Bengals 2020 Training Camp Preview: Running Backs

Entering the 2020 season, the running backs for the Bengals are a group with some undeniable talent, but the depth chart raises concerns

Running backs can be a crucial part of an NFL team’s make-up, especially when a team is set to start a rookie running back as the Cincinnati Bengals will be in 2020. The dominance of Joe Mixon has been recognized across the league, and this year, he has a chance to build upon that reputation heading into free agency. It will also be interesting to see how things evolve behind him at the position with some intriguing names to keep an eye on.

The Bengals running back depth chart relies heavily on Mixon

When you look at the Bengals depth chart, one thing immediately stands out. Yes, the top of the depth chart is extremely strong with Mixon, but after that, the situation gets very dicey if Mixon were to miss time.

Joe Mixon

Mixon is among the NFL’s best running backs as it is, and could be in for a huge year to expand upon his success in 2020. The addition of solid offensive pieces like quarterback Joe Burrow and the much-anticipated NFL debut of left tackle Jonah Williams should help Mixon, who has been held back to an extent by his surroundings, grow into an even more effective rusher.

Last season, Mixon carried the ball 278 times for 1,137 yards with five touchdowns. He’s also consistently proven to be a versatile threat across the board, reeling in 35 receptions for 287 yards and three scores in 2019 as well.

One concern with Mixon comes when you look at his Offensive Share Metric returns. Through his three seasons, Mixon has never finished above RB35, with 2019 the worst season of his career. The raw statistics look good for Mixon, but his contribution to the offense when carrying the ball still has a lot of room for improvement.

Giovani Bernard

Bernard is the second part of the 1-2 punch for the Bengals. He saw the field for roughly 40% of the Bengals’ offensive snaps last year, appearing in all 16 games and starting two of them.

However, he only had 53 rushing attempts and 30 receptions in 2019, recording a career-low in touches and combined yards from the line of scrimmage with a total of 404. He should be expected to continue to serve as Mixon’s backup as he looks to get his numbers up again. However, if Mixon were to go down injured, it is tough to imagine Bernard suddenly stepping up into the featured back role.

Which young back could be the Bengals savior?

If something were to happen to Mixon in 2020, the Bengals would likely be left looking at one of their two young rookie backs to serve in the primary back role, keeping Bernard as the change of pace. Do either Trayveon Williams or Rodney Anderson have what it takes to step up?

Trayveon Williams

Entering the second year of his rookie deal, Williams sits behind the two primary rushers in Bernard and Mixon. In order to get on the field more, Williams is going to have to prove worthy of earning some snaps over Bernard, or he will likely require an injury to one of the two in front of him.

A significant concern for Williams is the lack of natural athleticism. Williams’ Relative Athletic Scorewhen he entered the league in 2019, was a woeful 4.68. Part of Williams’s issue is his size, as he measured just 5 feet 8 inches and weighed in at 206 pounds. Of more concern is the “very poor” grade in terms of agility, with just “good” grades when it comes to explosion and speed. 

Williams played just 1% of the offensive snaps last year, but he did contribute on special teams, playing 28% of the snaps in 2019. That versatility should serve him well when it comes to ensuring he remains on the back end of the roster.

Rodney Anderson

Anderson is very much in the mix to make the team, but he’ll have to battle for that spot. He had a solid game in Week 3 of the preseason last year, catching four passes for 51 yards before being hampered by an ACL injury for the second time. He was forced to sit out for the entirety of the season and will look to gain some valuable experience moving forward if the Bengals keep him on the roster.

The bottom line

Mixon and Bernard are the two players in this bunch that will likely get the majority of the carries in Cincinnati this year. Williams and Anderson’s chances of making it onto the 53-man roster aren’t low, but they both need a great showing in camp. Other names like Samaje Perine and Jacques Patrick should be considered more of a long-shot to make the roster.

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