Remember John Ross? At this point, I’m not even sure fans of the Cincinnati Bengals do. The team used their first-round draft pick on the speedy but injury-flagged wide receiver in the 2017 NFL Draft, and he has spent most of his time since then on the sidelines.
Ross was originally injured in training camp and only made a brief appearance in the preseason before being injured again. He did dress briefly for the second game of the season, given a carry on an end-around, but after gaining 12 yards, he was hit hard and fumbled.
He has remained out since then, and has already been ruled out for tomorrow contest against the Bills. According to reports, he has remained limited to work on the rehab field during practice even as recently as yesterday, so it is unclear at what point he might be ready to return for the Bengals.
Cincinnati has struggled to rebound on offense since they lost their offensive coordinator, Hue Jackson, to the Browns, and also saw two of their top wide receivers leave in free agency, prior to the start of the 2016 NFL season. They have already since fired the offensive coordinator who succeeded Jackson.
They have also used up resources high in the draft to try to replace those receivers, with Ross in the first round this year and Tyler Boyd in the second round a year ago. So far, neither of them have been able to appropriately fill the void.
Neither have they found suitable replacements for the three starting offensive linemen that they have lost over the course of the past two offseasons, and this, combined with the other losses on offense, has seen quarterback Andy Dalton take a major step back from his 2015 form.
To make matters worse, he has also been without his Pro Bowl tight end, Tyler Eifert, for most of that span. Eifert has only participated in one game so far this year and remains sidelined with a back injury that has been a recurring nuisance for him over the course of his career. It is not clear when he will return, either.
The Bengals are so far 1-3 this season, and that one victory has come over the Browns, who are starting a rookie quarterback this year and have not been very competitive overall throughout the early stretch of this season—perhaps most so against the Steelers.
With Ross being unable to even get on the field, the team really doesn’t even know much about what they have in him. All they know is that he is very fast based on his 40-yard dash time, but so was Dri Archer.
Dalton hasn’t had much to work with outside of A.J. Green, as even the running game has not gotten very far, in spite of the fact that the Bengals have three second-round picks over the course of the past five drafts at their disposal there.