You know it’s a sign of good things to come when rookie Joe Mixon is lighting a fire so early in camp that people are questioning when he’s going to take over the starting role. However, the Bengals announced that for now, Jeremy Hill has the starting job.

“I’m the eternal optimist. I think there is better in there,” mentioned running backs coach Kyle Caskey to Cincinnati.com. “I’ve seen things in practice and I’ve seen things in our offseason that have led me to believe that the Jeremy Hill that’s going to show up this year is going to be the Jeremy Hill that everybody wants to be on this team, and he wants him to be. We’ll see it as it goes along.”

Caskey’s words demonstrate a strong confidence in Hill’s abilities. After all, this is his most important season to date. Not only is he competing for touches against Mixon and Giovani Bernard, this is the last year of his contract. The 2017 season represents an audition of sorts for Hill in that if the Bengals decide to let him go, he could pick up that coveted second NFL contract with another team. So, there’s much on the line for Hill.

And the coach’s recent quotes are in no way reflective of what happens with Mixon. Mixon hits the gaps with lighting quickness and has the innate ability to turn to leave defenders in the dust. Fans, coaches, and players alike have all raved about his play during camp. Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com has gone so far as to say, “Mixon is the real deal. I think you have him as a 15-to-20-carry-a-game guy with three to five catches. Right away. September 10 vs. Baltimore.”

Almost anyone who’s seen Mixon play would agree with this assessment. But there’s another side to this too that shouldn’t go unnoticed: The Bengals have three good backs they can use in rotation. This rotation can keep them fresh during the grind of the season. And having versatile backs that each come with their own distinctive style and skillset means it’s more ways the Bengals can attack opposing defenses. That’s a great place to be in.

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