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Bengals try to extend early surge without RB Joe Mixon

September 17, 2018
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FILE - In this Sept. 13, 2018, file photo, Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon (28) breaks away from Baltimore Ravens defensive back Tony Jefferson (23) on a run in the first half of an NFL football game, in Cincinnati. The Bengals get ready to play at least one game without running back Joe Mixon, sidelined by a knee injury. (AP Photo/Frank Victores, File)

CINCINNATI (AP) — Joe Mixon’s chair was upside-down in his locker on Monday, a reminder that the Cincinnati Bengals are moving ahead without the running back who’s been a key part of their 2-0 start.

Mixon had debris removed from his right knee over the weekend and is expected to be sidelined for a few games. In the interim, the AFC North leaders will lean more heavily on Giovani Bernard and Tra Carson, who hasn’t carried the ball in an NFL game.

Mixon got hurt during a 34-23 win over the Ravens on Thursday night at Paul Brown Stadium, going in-and-out of the game. An exam found a piece of debris that was removed. Mixon’s agent said he could return within two weeks.

“I think between Gio and Tra, we will find a way, I hope,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said Monday.

Mixon was a centerpiece of the Bengals’ revised offense in the first two games, carrying 38 times for 176 yards — a 4.7-yard average — and catching six passes for 57 yards. After splitting time last season with Bernard and Jeremy Hill, the second-round pick became the focal point this year.

Bernard has carried only seven times for 25 yards and caught five passes for 26 yards. Mixon was on the field for 44 plays in an opening 34-23 win at Indianapolis, with Bernard in for only a dozen plays. The snaps were evenly split against Baltimore as Mixon was hobbled by the injury.

Lazor thinks the 5-foot-9 Bernard is comparable enough in style to the 6-foot-1 Mixon that the Bengals can run the same types of plays. Bernard played in all 16 games last season even though he was only 10 months removed from a torn ACL. He ran for 116 yards against Detroit on Dec. 24.

“I think he’s really unique physically and to be able to do that (with) his stature, to play the way he plays,” Lazor said. “He finishes runs, he doesn’t go out of bounds. He doesn’t go down easy.”

Carson was an undrafted free agent from Texas A&M. He was on the practice squad for most of 2016 and missed all last season with a groin injury. He’s been a special teams player this season, getting in on offense for only five plays.

“When he hits it, he goes hard,” Lazor said. “He just goes straight ahead, he’s decisive, he’s trustworthy in pass protection.”

The Bengals had one of the worst rushing offenses in franchise history last season, finishing second-to-last in the league with 85.4 yards per game. They’re ranked 17th after two games, a big part of the offense’s overall improvement.

Cincinnati tries to improve to 3-0 for only the fifth time in coach Marvin Lewis’ 16 seasons when it plays at Carolina on Sunday. The Panthers are coming off a 31-24 loss at Atlanta , the Bengals’ opponent the following week.

PRESTON BROWN BETTER: Linebacker Preston Brown was inactive for the game on Thursday because of a sprained right ankle. Brown thinks he could have played if the game had been on Sunday, giving him a few more days to heal. He’s optimistic about being ready for Carolina. Brown wanted to play on Thursday, but was limited in a pregame workout for Lewis.

“We started to do some different drills and I saw the look on Marvin’s face,” Brown said Monday. “He didn’t like how I was looking.”

ALSO MENDING: Center Billy Price (right foot) and defensive end Michael Johnson (left knee) missed most of the game on Thursday. The Bengals will have a better idea of their status by midweek.

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