Has there been a more disappointing draft pick, this far into his rookie season, than the Cincinnati Bengals’ wide receiver John Ross? Considering that he just got himself called out by head coach Marvin Lewis, who routinely goes to bat for chronic repeat offenders such as Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones, I would be inclined to say, ‘yes’.
The Washington pass-catcher whose trademark was his blazing 4.22-second 40-yard dash time at the Combine was drafted by the Bengals with the ninth pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, but he has barely even played this season, largely due to injury, but also because the team hasn’t found it useful to play him much. He hasn’t earned it.
Having now played in three games this season, Ross still has just one touch to his name, which was an end-around on which he picked up 12 yards and then fumbled. But Lewis put the rookie at fault for a blown play early in the Bengals’ loss on Sunday to the Titans, whom the Pittsburgh Steelers host tonight.
Ross played just six snaps in the game, but Lewis focused on one. Early in the second quarter, they lined him up outside the numbers on a go route down the right sideline on third and five. Andy Dalton looked his way on the deep pass, but the ball sailed over both receiver and defender alike.
The receiver didn’t seem to expect the ball to come his way and stopped his route, which resulted in the ball going far beyond him. Clearly a rookie mistake—one would hope—and one that would certainly get you called out in the film room. Perhaps not necessarily during a mid-week press conference, but hey, that’s what happens when you barely win any games I guess.
Lewis even relayed a conversation that he had with Ross, while Dalton was also there. “For Andy, against that coverage to throw him that football, he should understand how the quarterback feels about him”, the head coach said. “That he expects him to be where he needs to be. He let his teammates down. He let me down. He let Andy down”.
While he conceded that “maybe that ball is not supposed to go there in that coverage”, he said, “if you do it right and run like you can run that ball can go there and it can be a big play for us”. And in his defense, the Bengals drafted him because of that speed. If he can’t do uncommon things using that speed, then he is just…common. So he needs to make those uncommon plays.
The previous game, Ross was a healthy scratch. With Tyler Boyd working his way back, having only seen six snaps this past week, and in Lewis’ doghouse, it wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprising if once again a top-10 pick is sitting on the bench in street clothes as a skill position player for the Bengals, not even contributing on special teams.