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2021 NFL Draft

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Bengals Notebook: Doing 'The Mixon,' As Rookies Already Take Note Of The Vets; Senior Bowl Looms Large On Board

Chris Evans: pondering 'The Mixon?'
Chris Evans: pondering 'The Mixon?'

The new guys are watching the old guys.

Like the Bengals' last two picks in Saturday's NFL Draft. While Michigan running back Chris Evans' teammates practiced a move called "The Mixon," in honor of Bengals running back Joe Mixon, seventh-rounder Wyatt Hubert of Kansas State has been copying edge rusher Trey Hendrickson's game.

"When he played his last four seasons with the Saints, I watched him and just loved the guy," said Hubert, moments after the Bengals called with the 235th pick. "He's a great player, and I loved watching him. I love watching edge guys in the NFL and just seeing what they do on certain offensive tackles and how they approach the game every single week."

The 6-3, 270-pound Hubert has been reading that his NFL comp is the 6-4, 270-pound Hendrickson, which he has to love because six weeks ago Hendrickson became the richest Bengals free agent in history with a four-year $60 million deal to replicate last season's 13.5 sacks in New Orleans.

"Similar in size. Similar in height and weight. Kind of similar personality-wise and character-wise. I'm a high motor, high effort, blue collar type of guy who does everything right on and off the field and shows up on Sundays and is just very productive," Hubert said, "Then obviously developing that relationship with Coach Duffner these last four or five months. He talked about Trey a lot, he talked about how he could be a good role model for me and a guy to look up to and a guy to learn from. So like I said, I'm very excited to get to work with a guy like him."

"Coach Duffner," is Bengals senior defensive assistant Mark Duffner, one of the quiet MVPs of this draft. Well, not so quiet. Not with 46 Zooms.

Duffner assists defensive line coach Marion Hobby and linebackers coach Al Golden with the edge rushers and he was one of the Bengals' main contacts with Hubert and the other pass rushers they took this weekend, Joseph Ossai of Texas and Cam Sample of Tulane.

Pretty much the only contact is by Zoom, which must be logged by the team because the league allows only five one-hour Zoom calls per prospect before the draft.

The word is Duffner led the staff with 46 Zooms.

"I'd probably say about two or three with Coach Duff," Sample said. "Just how genuine he is about the game of football. He's real (inspirational). You can tell he knows a lot about the game and, the team seems to have a great atmosphere up there. I'm just blessed to be a part of the organization."

Sample is known as a relentless player. He was asked what was more relentless. His play or Duffner's Zooms?

"I'm going to have to go with me, but it's a close second with Coach Duff," Sample said.

Evans, the Michigan back, said he hasn't heard from Mixon, a prominent social media presence. But then again, Evans said he turned off his phone. He's never met him, but he has met his style in practice.

"We watched a lot of film on Joe Mixon, so this is an interesting opportunity as far as breaking down his film and watching what he does," Evans said. "Our running backs coach even calls this move 'The Mixon,' so we practiced that almost every other day. And watching film, it doesn't look like he tries to do it. It looks like something that is natural. So, being around him, being able to pick his brain and see what's coming in store next or see what I can get better at and improve on my game."

He says he really can't describe it, but he did.

"'The Mixon' is like patient steps where your feet are staggered. It's kind of a patient movement," Evans said. "In the drills that we'd do, he (the running backs coach) would have us 'Mixon,' and then burst and make a move off of this. I can't explain it. I'll have to show you. It's being patient while gaining ground at the same time."

He can show it May 14, which is the one day rookie minicamp.

SENIOR-IT IS: The Senior Bowl was bandied about as more important than ever this year because the NFL scouting combine was cancelled and pro days were limited. It was really the only time the NFL could see these guys in person up close. Not only on the field, but in 15-minute interviews separated by Plexiglas.

And it was certainly was true for the Bengals. Sample was a defensive MVP in Mobile while fellow fourth-rounder D'Ante Smith showed off his powerful versatility on the offensive line in the week of the game.

And there was Evans, who had lost his job his senior year but got a shot to show his wares.

"This guy from Michigan just kept putting on a show in one-on-ones, so he intrigued us," said Bengals head coach Zac Taylor. "And then you had a chance to get those interviews at night with the guys. And this guy had beaten every linebacker in the one on ones. Had great hands. Then you get the chance to interview him and, man, he's got a really extremely high football IQ and can talk though the protections and the scheme.

"Chris is a great example, had he not been at the Senior Bowl he might not have been fully on our radar the way he was. So for him to go there and showcase his skills, we're really happy adding Chris to the roster. He's going to have a real chance to compete."

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