NOTE: This is the second of a 10-part series detailing each position group for the Bengals heading into training camp, which begins on July 27, and culminating with a 53-player roster projection.
CINCINNATI (WKRC) - This part takes a look at the running backs and who are locks to make the 53-man roster when it's finalized on Aug. 30, who are likely to make it, who are in a battle to make it and who are long shots to make it:
How many will likely be kept: 3-4
Lock to make it: Joe Mixon, Chris Evans
Likely to make it: Samaje Perine
Battling to make it: Trayveon Williams
Long shot to make it: Elijah Holyfield, Shermari Jones
The Skinny: Mixon is coming off the best year of his career and he should be even better in 2022 with what should be a significantly improved offensive line in front of him. Three veteran free agents were signed in center Ted Karras, right guard Alex Cappa and right tackle La'el Collins.
Mixon, who will only turn 26 on July 24, set career highs in rushing yards (1,205 in 16 games), yards from scrimmage (1,519), rushing touchdowns (13) and total touchdowns (16).
He did all of that while averaging 20.9 touches per game and 4.5 yards per touch. It's plausible for him to average 25 touches per game in 2022 and if he increases his average per touch closer to 5.0 yards that would lead to a 2,000-yard season from scrimmage.
Evans could be in line for a much bigger role as the top backup ahead of Perine. He rushed only 17 times for 77 yards, but had 15 receptions for 151 yards and two touchdowns. He also became the main kickoff returner in the regular-season finale and carried that role into the postseason where he averaged 23.2 yards on nine returns.
Perine is probably closer to a lock to make it as he gives the Bengals more size in a backup role at 240 pounds than any other back on the roster and is also a solid special teams contributor. He played in 32 of a possible 33 regular-season games over the last two seasons combined and avergaed 4.6 yards per carry in 118 attempts. Last season he also had a career-high 27 receptions for 196 yards, although that role may diminish if Evans gets more snaps as expected.
Williams spent much of last season on the Bengals practice squad and appeared in only five regular season games. The 2019 sixth-round pick appeared in 21 games in 2019 and 2020 combined. In three seasons he logged 41 carries and averaged an impressive 5.1 yards per rush. He may make it if the Bengals opt to keep four running backs or if he does something spectacular in the preseason and Perine struggles.
Holyfield, son of former heavyweight world champion Evander Holyfield, has played in just one regular-season NFL game since entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2019. He spent much of that season with the Carolina Panthers on their practice squad, but was then signed by the Philadelphia Eagles on Dec. 31, 2019. He spent most of the 2020 season on the Eagles practice squad, before being signed to the active roster for a Nov. 21 game against Cleveland and then returned to the practice squad after that. He was signed by the Bengals in Oct. 2021 and spent the rest of the season on their practice squad.
Jones was signed in May as an undrafted free agent out of Coastal Carolina. Last season there he rushed for 1,040 yards on only 159 carries (6.5 yards per rush) and 13 touchdowns.
BENGALS TRAINING CAMP POSITION PREVIEW SCHEDULE