After scoring an average of 15.5 points per game in their nine losses last season, the Bengals have suddenly transformed their offense and special teams in the last 30 hours it took to select the fastest player in history at wide receiver and a big back that has a history of moving like a scat back.
It's hard to say when the transformation takes place since speed merchant John Ross is recovering from shoulder surgery and running back Joe Mixon is competing with fellow big back Jeremy Hill. But Ross' 4.22 speed in the 40-yard dash combined with Mixon's 228 pounds and own 4.46 40 makes the Bengals a much more dangerous team than the one that scored the fewest points in the A.J. Green-Andy Dalton Era.
Even the new guys can sense it.
"I think I bring the piece they were missing. I feel like I'm going to be very dynamic in that offense," Mixon said. "I really feel like John Ross and I are going to bring something to the table that they've never seen before. We're basically looking forward to coming up there. Of course the ultimate goal is us getting to the Super Bowl."
"With the guys on the other side of the ball like A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Tyler Eifert and an amazing quarterback in Andy (Dalton), and just to be contributing with the speed component, I feel really good about the opportunity to play on this offense," Ross said. "A.J. is going to get attention, so it's a great opportunity."
The Bengals have declared war on the AFC North defenses with kind of offensive players that have given them fits in the past. Ross is the answer to the Ravens' speed receivers and Mixon is the answer to the Steelers' big backs that can also catch. Think Le'Veon Bell, a good receiver out of the backfield who devastates with the vision and power Mixon displays.
"When he caught the ball you'd see a lot of catches and highlights coming out of the backfield. He had a couple one-handed catches and different things like that that show off his ball skills," Caskey said. " "The (ball skills) are top notch. They're the kind that you can trust. He can catch the ball. He brings it in with his hands, he doesn't let
it get into his body when he's running the ball, he can make people miss in space, he can run people over, he's 228 pounds, ran a mid-4.4, and has the agility and space of a smaller back."
With running back Giovani Bernard's quicksilver rehab from a torn ACL putting him on the path to training camp, Mixon may get some work early in the season.
"I'm so excited, I can hardly stand myself," said offensive coordinator Ken Zampese. "This guy can flat go — very, very good football player — strong, explosive, change of direction, feel and instincts, catches the ball, can move him around on different places of the field, interviewed football very well, protections, explained his offense well ... I think he has a very, very bright future."
That includes special teams, where Mixon returned five punts and two kickoffs last season for a total of 504 yards and a TD. Take Ross' 23 touchdowns on his last 112 touches and Mixon's 26 touchdowns in 25 games that include nine touchdowns and, well, how else is a team that barely averaged 20 points per game supposed to respond?
The Bengals got their men. Ross was their top-rated receiver. Mixon was their third-rated back. They never got out of the best-player mode. Even though they risked losing Mixon by sliding to No. 48 from No. 41, they figured that extra fourth-round pick would yield another solid player. If Mixon wasn't there, there were edge rushers there in the mix like Kansas State defensive end Jordan Willis. They ended up with both.
"We felt good about some players that were there on the board at that point, so we felt good about that. That's why we took the opportunity to add the other pick — maybe we can do something positive with the other pick as far as moving around," Lewis said. "That's what (Bengals director of player personnel) Duke (Tobin) felt good about — that we people there we felt good about if Joe had gone, that we'd still be in good shape with others."
But reminders of draft day risks that never panned out are always there. Mixon was taken with the 48th pick. The last time they took a player there Georgia middle linebacker Odell Thurman had a Rookie of the Year season before never playing another snap because of addictions. Yet the Bengals have done enough due diligence on Mixon that they are now wondering how to use him best on the field.
"He's dynamic — we can put him
anywhere on the field," Caskey said. "There's a lot of things he can do that can help us, not only in the run game, but in the pass game. He brings explosiveness to our offense that's good to have with a guy like that. He's a very, very high talented guy. Getting him in the building and getting him in our offense is exciting for us, because there's a lot of things we can do."
This gallery features the Bengals 48th pick of the 2017 NFL Draft Joe Mixon - Oklahoma