Two-time 1,000-yard running back Joe Mixon's foot injury has knocked him out of Sunday's game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) at Paul Brown Stadium against a Cleveland team he has hit for his two biggest career games.
Head coach Zac Taylor ruled him out following Friday's practice to cap a week Mixon never worked after he gritted through last Sunday's second half in Indianapolis. Mixon hurt his foot on his next-to-last carry of a first half he averaged four yards per his 11 carries.
Despite the injury, Mixon bulled his way to a seven-yard touchdown run on his last carry of the half, but he wasn't himself for a second half he carried seven times for 10 yards. Taylor indicated his status is still hazy, but he wouldn't rule him out against next week's PBS game against the Titans that takes them into the Nov. 1 bye week and could give Mixon an extra week of rest before the second half of the season.
It figures to give eight-year veteran running back Giovani Bernard the 21st start of his career and first since last Nov. 24 when he had one carry against the Steelers. He had one carry for three yards against the Browns last month and had eight carries for 15 yards in Mixon's place last Sunday.
It also means sophomore Trayveon Williams, a 5-8, 206-pounder, is going to be active for the first time this season. It will be his 12th NFL game and he's poised for his first NFL carry. Big back Samaje Perine, a 5-11, 240-pounder, whose only carry as a Bengal during the past two seasons came as a fullback last week in the fourth quarter, also is going to be active. He does have 183 carries in the league for 3.5 yards per, all with Washington during his first two NFL seasons in 2017 and 2018.
It's another twist to Mixon's tough season that began with a contract extension and now sees the end of his 34-game streak. Mixon and his offensive line are still trying to get into the groove in 2020 after piling up more yards than everyone but NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry in the final eight games of last season. That stretch included games of 162 and 146 yards against the Browns.
His lone 100-yard game this year, a 152-yard effort that gave him AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors, coincides with the Bengals' only win.
Although Taylor said he thinks rookie practice squad running back Jacques Patrick is ready to contribute, he won't make him active Sunday.
DOWN ON THE CORNER: The Bengals go into the 95th Battle of Ohio down not only one of their top offensive players but one of their top defenders when Taylor ruled out cornerback William Jackson III. So that means Darius Phillips and LeShaun Sims battle one of the NFL's best receiver tandems in Pro Bowlers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr.,
At No. 22, Jackson is the top Bengals cornerback in the Pro Football Focus player ratings.
TRAYVEON TIME: Talk about a guy that has patiently bided his time for a shot. Williams, a 2019 sixth-round pick out of Texas A&M, never carried the ball as a rookie during seven snaps while playing 11 games and 124 snaps on special teams and he has yet to be active this season. The man who led the SEC in rushing has quietly worked and waited for his turn.
Williams says he's coming off the best practice week of his pro career and is "extremely excited," hoping for that first carry since that 2018 Gator Bowl against North Carolina State he took home the MVP trophy with 236 yards and three touchdowns.
"It's really crazy. I've been an Alpha dog my whole life. Still am. Always been a captain my whole life," Williams said. "You just have to be humble in these situations and know that God has a plan.
"I know it's a process. I didn't believe it would take this long, but I knew when the opportunity I would make the most of it."
There's no guarantee he'll get that first carry. He's ready if he gets it, saying he had a calm, collected week on the field where he has been practicing with confidence. He says he's got a little of both when it comes to the fast power of the 220-pound Mixon and the speed and quickness of the 5-9 Bernard.
"I'm a compact guy," Williams said. "I feel like I'm a scat guy that can come in on third down. But at the same time I can run the ball between the tackles. I led the SEC in rushing and everyone knows that's the mini NFL. I feel like I can do that and they have me here for a reason."
In the four pre-season games of his rookie year, he ran it seven times for nine yards and caught two balls for 21 yards. One of the guys that has been giving him advice, along with running backs coach Jemal Singleton and his agent, is coming to town Friday. Thomas Williams, Trayveon's dad, had plans to fly in from Houston. He was coming anyway, even if he'd been inactive.
"They've been telling me what Jemal told me last week," said Williams, getting ready to head to the airport. "However the opportunity comes when it comes, just be ready."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Taylor said everybody is ready to go but Mixon and Jackson, although wide receiver John Ross III sounds questionable after missing another practice with an illness. Taylor didn't take Ross to Baltimore last week after he missed practices because of an illness and he's been inactive three of the last four games, twice by coach's decision. He played one snap last week.
"We feel comfortable with our receiver group as a whole. Some weeks that will include John and other weeks it includes the other guys," Taylor said. "It's a weekly competition. We evaluate how everybody practices."
Mike Daniels looks like he'll play his first game with fellow D-tackle Geno Atkins. Daniels (elbow) was on injured reserve when Atkins (shoulder) played the last two weeks for his first action of the season. Taylor has been easing Atkins back by bringing him off the bench on passing downs. He's played 18 and 19 snaps the last two weeks, but Taylor wouldn't say if he'd start Sunday. He did say Daniels looked as good as he did before he got hurt with three good practices this week and that allowed them to activate him off IR as soon as he was eligible …
Safety Shawn Williams (hamstring) was questionable after being limited Friday.
Taylor apparently had to light a fire after Wednesday's practice, which he called, "kind of just an average day."
"I think yesterday's practice was particularly good after we challenged them Wednesday," Taylor said. "We talked a lot about that as a team after Wednesday's practice and Thursday I thought we had a tremendous response from the guys. It's one of our most competitive practices we've had. Tons of energy and that carried over to (Friday). I thought today was a really good practice."