The Cincinnati Bengals had two positions that needed to be upgraded when they began their game prep for today’s contest against the San Francisco 49ers.
By Thursday evening, the need at running back intensified after rookie Chase Brown was carted off with a hamstring injury that landed him on injured reserve, meaning he’s going to miss at least the next four games.
Should the Cincinnati Bengals Add a Running Back?
That leaves the Bengals with two options behind Joe Mixon, both of whom have been largely ignored during their time in Cincinnati. Part of that was due to the presence of Samaje Perine the last couple of years, but even with Perine out of the picture in 2023, Trayveon Williams and Chris Evans — and Brown — have mostly been afterthoughts.
Williams has five carries this year and just 55 in his five-year career with the Bengals. Evans has two carries in 2023 and 19 in his career that began in 2021.
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Even though Cincinnati’s 121 rushing attempts this year are the fewest in the league (after having the fourth fewest in 2022), there is an obvious need to keep Mixon fresh for what they hope will be another run to — and through — the playoffs.
Mixon is in his seventh season, the stage in most running backs’ careers that qualify them for social security.
— Jay Morrison (@ByJayMorrison) October 28, 2023
And when Mixon isn’t running the ball, he’s a liability in pass protection. It’s been so bad that the Bengals have had to bring tight end Drew Sample into the backfield on third downs to give quarterback Joe Burrow a semblance of security.
Whether it was the master plan when they drafted Brown or just a product of how the first six weeks played out, the intention was to get Brown more involved after the bye. Of course, it would be hard to have him be less involved after playing only eight snaps through six games.
“I think it’s a reasonable expectation to see him play more,” offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said Thursday, just hours before Brown suffered his injury.
“(Joe) Mixon’s been playing a lot of snaps, and just like the defensive line, you’re trying to make sure your guys are fresh over the long haul,” Callahan added. “We’ve got to keep Joe fresh over the course of the season.”
The best way to do that is to go out and get another running back. But we all know how this is going to end.
The Bengals don’t trade for players in season. The last time they did, it was 1972 — acquiring future Hall of Fame wide receiver Charlie Joiner. Wednesday will be the 51-year anniversary of that deal. Tuesday probably will be the 51st consecutive trade deadline to come and go without the Bengals doing anything to improve the team.
Cincinnati also could use an upgrade at tight end, with starter Irv Smith Jr. producing just six catches for 32 yards on 11 targets through four games (he missed two with a hamstring injury).
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At some point before 4 p.m. Tuesday, there will be trades involving a running back and a tight end, maybe multiple ones. And if Bengals fans want a true fright on Halloween, just pay attention to the return compensation for the players at either of those positions.
The Bengals could upgrade either position for a late-round pick in 2024 or 2025, and the need has never been more obvious. But they probably won’t try to get better in the now. They never do.
That 2025 sixth-round pick could be a future Hall of Famer, they’ll say.
Your kids are more likely to cross paths with a future one while trick or treating Tuesday.
Maybe if the Brown injury is more severe than just a four-week absence, you could see the Bengals make a move. But instead, they probably will talk up the potential of practice squad RB Demetric Felton, who has eight career carries since being drafted by the Browns in 2021.
Fifty-one years and counting …
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