Over the last five weeks, no NFL running back stands with more carries than Joe Mixon.
Mixon has handled 105 carries over that span for the Cincinnati Bengals. And from there, the Oklahoma product has rushed for 469 yards to go with three touchdowns.
That yardage tally checks in behind only the Cleveland Browns’ Nick Chubb and the Tennessee Titans’ Derrick Henry. That scoring tally checks in tied behind only the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Jones, the Minnesota Vikings’ Dalvin Cook and the aforementioned Henry.
It’s been a surge for Mixon, who led the AFC in rushing last year only to see his initial eight games this year include 101 carries for 320 yards and no touchdowns on the ground.
Mixon’s next game will see the New England Patriots visit Paul Brown Stadium.
And in Mixon, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick sees a 6-foot-1, 220-pound problem.
“To me, he’s effective every game. He’s really a hard guy to handle,” Belichick said on his conference call Tuesday. “Mixon is fast. He’s explosive through the line of scrimmage. A hard guy to tackle, reads blocks very well, gets vertical. There’s hardly – it’s rare to get him on negative plays.”
Dating back to the Bengals’ Nov. 10 matchup with the Baltimore Ravens, just 14 percent Mixon’s rushing attempts have ended at the line of scrimmage or behind it, according to Pro Football Reference. He’s broken off gains of at least seven yards on 22 percent of his rushes during the recent stretch.
“He almost always gets positive yardage,” Belichick told reporters. “But he’s strong enough to run through tackles. He’s quick enough and explosive enough to break quickly into space, get out of trouble and get away from guys.”
Against the Cleveland Browns last Sunday, a loss that sent Cincinnati to 1-12, Mixon posted a career-high 146 rushing yards to go with a season-high 40 receiving yards.
“He’s an inside runner, an outside runner,” Belichick said. “Catches the ball well. He’s good on screens, checkdowns and space plays. This is a guy that, when he gets the ball in his hands, is definitely a problem.”
Mixon’s 589 scrimmage yards over Cincinnati’s last five games ranks third leaguewide at the position. The offense turned to him to touch the ball a total of 115 times in the process.
In contrast, New England’s defense has conceded 505 scrimmage yards to opposing backs over its last five games. And those backs, ranging from the Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott to the Kansas City Chiefs’ Darwin Thompson, combined to touch the ball 121 times.
Kickoff between is set for 1 p.m. ET Sunday.
“Mixon’s one of the best backs we’ll face,” added Belichick. “He’s an outstanding player. Great toughness and really a solid football player.”