It was just a couple of seasons ago that the Cincinnati Bengals had if not one of the best groups of wide receivers in the league, then certainly only of the most underrated. Spearheaded with perennial Pro Bowler A.J. Green to start a solid foundation, their top three in the group was rounded out by two players who signed strong contracts with other teams in free agency: Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu.
The Bengals have been trying to play catch-up since losing those two players, adding Tyler Boyd in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft and using their first-round pick in the top 10 of last year’s draft on John Ross, the man who recorded the fastest 40-yard dash time in the history of the Combine.
Ross’ rookie season consisted of one carry (yes, carry) for 12 yards and one fumble. He did not record a single reception during the year, though he was only active for three games, primarily due to injury. He eventually fell so far behind that he simply was not being played.
Ross admitted that he tried to return from injury last season too early, trying to press to get back on the field because of the expectations that surround a high draft pick and, frankly, because of the need that his team has at the position. They were counting on him to be a meaningful contributor last year in another losing season.
This shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise, but the Bengals are not about to give up on their former first-round pick after just one injury-plagued season. While Head Coach Marvin Lewis was pretty critical of Ross and his inability to contribute during the regular season last year, this is a new opportunity for him.
More recently, Lewis spoke more positively of him, noting that he was just a rookie “and rookies disappear. That’s what happens”. Though it didn’t happen to JuJu Smith-Schuster for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who as a second-round pick became a starter during his rookie season.
“He wasn’t in my doghouse. I don’t have a doghouse”, Lewis said. “I think he’s [got] all the ability we wanted. That’s why we drafted him. He had to get fixed. We knew he was injured going in and he got nicked up a couple of times in his lower legs and the other shoulder was bothering him. He’s all fixed now”.
Issuing him a new slate and a clean bill of health, it goes without saying that Lewis will be expecting big things from Ross in his second season. Considering that the Bengals basically played without him last year, if he is anything like he was expected to be leading up to the draft, that could be a major addition for that offense.