Don’t Give up on Me: The Case for Joe Mixon & Marlon Mack
Two yards per carry. 33 carries for 66 yards. There is no way to explain your way out of that one. It is just terrible.
The headline does give away the point I am trying to make here. Other than the first obvious question of “Why?!??!?!”, the next task should be to identify the player responsible for that pittance of a statistical output. That would be too kind though. Through the first two games of their NFL careers, a combined four games, Joe Mixon and Marlon Mack have 33 carries and 66 yards between them.
To be fair, neither player is beginning their pro career in an ideal situation as the next victory for either the Bengals or Colts will be their first in 2017. But other than brick walls Mixon and Mack apparently have been running into, what has changed in the few weeks following your draft?
And the quick answer to that question, is an emphatic “nothing”. It isn’t that simple though, as neither the Bengals or the Colts offense has been the picture of efficiency with each team struggling more than we previously expected. However, the early season struggles aside, the values of Mixon and Mack lie more in their roles, coupled with their talent, than anything else.
When it comes to roster management, we are in the favorable part of the season. Miami and Tampa Bay notwithstanding, we aren’t to the part of the schedule that forces us to deal with bye weeks yet, and for the most part, the normal bumps and bruises of an NFL season have yet to set in. So that means your bench should still be all about upside. There is plenty of time to manage bye weeks and deal with injuries, the point of your bench in Week 3 of the season is to stash players who have the best chance at being studs in Weeks 13-16.
Based on their current situations, Mixon and Mack could be those players.
Despite having Giovanni Bernard, coming off an ACL injury, and Jeremy Hill on their roster, the Bengals still selected Mixon in the second round of this past April’s draft. Mixon immediately became the most talented running back in Cincinnati’s backfield as his power and speed mix is a combination of both incumbent backs. But just because Mixon entered the season as the Bengals’ most talented option, it didn’t mean he would automatically be handed the starting role. However, that didn’t stop fantasy owners from selecting him anywhere from the third to fifth rounds of their drafts. Just based on that fact alone, we should give Mixon more than two weeks to prove himself.
After gaining nine yards on eight carries in his debut (along with three receptions for 15 yards), Mixon followed that up with a 36 yard effort last week. We should note though, that Mixon’s nine carries did lead the Bengals. After seeing their offense look inept for the first two weeks of the season, Cincinnati fired their offensive coordinator after last Thursday’s disaster, and a new offensive coordinator could bring with him hope for Mixon. Through two games, he has averaged 11 touches, and I would expect that to increase. Cincinnati does face the Packers this week so it will likely be one more week until Mixon has his “break-out” game, but his value is currently the lowest it will be all season.
Mack entered the league with a lot less fanfare than Mixon, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore him. Entering the season, there were questions about the status of Andrew Luck, and while they might have escalated, these aren’t new issues. In Week 1, Mack’s value was helped by the fact that he scored a late game touchdown, but so far this season he has just 16 carries for 21 yards and two catches for 32 yards. After last week when he lost a combined three yards on six carries, frustrated owners might have cut ties with Mack; or at least thought about it.
Frank Gore is still the starter for the Colts, but each week we expect to see age get the better of him, and that would leave Mack atop the depth chart. Through two weeks, Gore hasn’t done all that much to generate excitement as he has gained just 88 yards on 24 carries with one touchdown. At that pace, it shouldn’t take Mack much to overtake the veteran. But at the very least, Gore hasn’t done anything to make Mack’s path to regular playing time more difficult than it was when you drafted Mack this summer.
In Mixon and Mack, we have two talented running backs who are just waiting for their opportunity. The best place for them to wait for that opportunity, is on your bench.