Bengals running back Joe Mixon, off a 1,205-yard career season, says he should have rushed for at least 1,600 yards and scored 23 touchdowns.
Prepping for Sunday's opener at Paycor Stadium (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) against the Steelers, Mixon went back to a run last year in Pittsburgh he says should have popped for a big one instead of one for about ten.
"We left a lot of yards out there," Mixon said before Wednesday's practice. "Everybody sees the splash plays and the yards, but I left 400 or 500 yards on the field and obviously about 10 touchdowns last year. If we clean certain things up from my end and probably one block away, that can turn into even more. We definitely can improve. That starts week 1. It obviously starts in practice, it started in camp when we reported."
Mixon says it could have been a goal-line play or, frankly, from anywhere.
"A read that potentially took me out of where I should have been," Mixon said. "If you can make one guy miss, you can go for 60, 50, 70. Last year over there it was a big tackle that made the big (stop). If I get an opportunity like that again, I promise you I'm going to fly through that for sure. That's one you have to make.
_Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow didn't say he was 100 percent heading into his third opener on the job, but before Wednesday's practice he smiled that way.
"I'm feeling really good. Throwing it the way I want to throw it, hit all my speed numbers, feeling strong in the weight room. Feel really good," Burrow said.
But he was giving out no percentages.
Have you reached that mark, whatever it was, speed number or whatever it was that would show you that you are 100 percent?
"Good to go," he said with a smile.
What was that speed number?
"Good to go," Burrow said.
_Burrow is so cool that he can drop a third-person on you and it doesn't sound as bad as it would coming from somebody else.
"Every game calls for a different Joe," Burrow said. "If our defense is playing great, I've got to protect the ball, we've got to run the ball well, take the opportunities when they're there, but don't push anything. If they're scoring on the other side of the ball, I might have to take some chances. If we're not running the ball as well I might have to take some chances that normal I wouldn't otherwise in a different game. Every game calls for something different."
He says it takes about a quarter or even less to get gauge it.
Asked if he has a favorite Joe, Burrow brought the house down with "The one that throws for 530 yards."
Which would break his Bengals record of 525.
_Right tackle La'el Collins has a memorable Bengals debut Sunday. He's matched up against Steelers pass rusher Trent Jordan Watt, merely everyone's Defensive Player of the Year with an NFL record-tying 22.5 sacks.
"No thoughts," Collins said Wednesday. "He's not on my team. He doesn't wear my jersey."
Collins is in his third week of working next to right guard Alex Cappa on the first team after missing the first part of training camp with a back issue and pronounced himself ready.
"I'm as good as I'm ever going to be," Collins said. "I'm ready to rock."
The Bengals' starters didn't play in the preseason and the Steelers' did, but Collins sounds like Burrow and others on the subject.
"That's why you practice all week really hard," Burrow said. "You're able to get all those, you don't want the pregame jitters, (but) you want to hit the ground running in game one. So that comes with work in practice, in individual drill and team periods, you've got to get all that out during the week."
_The Bengals' D.J. Reader, the best NFL nose tackle nobody knows because the pundits have whiffed, didn't get overlooked in the vote for defensive captains, joining safety Vonn Bell and edge Sam Hubbard.
Reader, last a captain when he captained Clemson's national champs, had it on his list of goals coming into training camp and now he's an NFL captain.
"It means everything to me," Reader said. "It's the highest honor voted by your teammates. I just wanted to be a better leader for the guys even if I didn't have the title."
Count defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo as not surprised.
"The players spoke volumes when they named him captain," Anarumo said. "That just tells you what he's all about in the locker room. How the guys receiving him. And just being stout in the run game giving us some pass rush. We view him as an every down guy and we view him as one of the better tackles in the league."
Asked if making the Pro Bowl was on his list of camp goals, Reader said, "It's somewhere on there."
_First-year Bengals center Ted Karras also called the captaincy a huge honor on offense. Karras spent his first five seasons and all but one of his seven pro seasons in New England taking notes from special teams guru Matthew Slater.
"Legend. He carries himself with the utmost professionalism," Karras said. "And then David Andrews, a guy who I really learned from how to play center in this league."
_The first injury report of the season comes after the first full practice in the week of the opener and it's the healthiest they'll be. On Wednesday only tight ends were listed. Drew Sample, who missed virtually all of training camp with a sprained knee, is officially back full. Mitchell Wilcox (ankle) was limited. The only guy that didn't practice is one of the newest Bengals, Devin Asiasi (quad).