'Frustrating' Bengals struggle to get Joe Mixon going

Where has Joe Mixon gone?

The Cincinnati running back led the AFC in rushing in 2018 with 1,168 yards rushing, fourth-most in the entire NFL. He did that in just 14 games played. Through seven games in 2019, Mixon hasn't even gained a quarter of that figure.

The 23-year-old back has just 254 rushing yards in seven weeks on 84 carries with zero touchdowns. His 4.9 yards per attempt average from last season has shrunk to 3.0. His rush yards per game has cratered from 83.4 in 2018 to 36.3. Four games this season Mixon hasn't breached the 20-yards rushing barrier. Three of those times, the number sat at 10 or fewer.

In Sunday's loss to Jacksonville, Mixon carried 10 times for 2 rushing yards, a career-low, while adding one reception on two targets for a 2-yard TD. The 2 yards rushing tied for the fewest in a single game since 2007 among RBs with 10 or more carries in a tilt (Eagles RB DeMarco Murray had 2 rush yards vs. Dallas in Week 2, 2015), per NFL Research.

Cincinnati averages 53.1 rush YPG and allows 189.0 rush YPG this season. The 135.9 rush YPG differential is the worst by any team in a season since the 1950 Baltimore Colts (-140.9).

As the Bengals were driving for a garbage-time score in Sunday's loss, Mixon sat on the sideline reportedly taking off his pads and quickly leaving the field after the clock hit zeroes, per The Athletic.

First-year coach Zac Taylor understands Mixon is frustrated with his production.

"It's frustrating for everybody when the run game isn't going," Taylor said, via the team's official website. "That's with the coaches and the running backs. Joe is easy to deal with. Joe understands. Joe wants to win. He's not a selfish guy in that way. He just wants to win. It's frustrating for any running back when we're having the lack of success that we're having right now."

The frustration is beginning to boil over for Mixon, who continues to be pelted behind the line of scrimmage thanks to inept blocking. Mixon is a Raggedy Ann doll. The defense is the 4-year-old child tossing him hither and thither at will.

Per Next Gen Stats, Cincy running backs have been stuffed on 31.3 percent of attempts this season, most in the league. Given that stat and Mixon's presence in the backfield, you might surmise that perhaps defenses are gearing up to stop one of Cincy's few weapons. You'd be wrong. The Bengals have faced six or fewer defenders in the box 54.7 percent of the time, tied for second-fewest.

"We get the pictures on the sidelines," Taylor said after Sunday's loss, via ESPN. "They're good runs, and we lose the point of attack right as the (running) back is hitting the line of scrimmage. There's a big hole there, and at the last second, they're beating us up front one-on-one."

When a shifty back like Mixon can't overcome poor blocking, you know it's a ghastly situation. On many drives through seven weeks, Taylor doesn't even bother calling run plays even before the game becomes a blowout.

The winless Bengals have a lot of problems. The inability to use the talent like Mixon ranks high on the list.

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