The Cleveland Browns are surely excited about bringing a pair of top-five draft picks into the fold this year with first-overall quarterback Baker Mayfield and cornerback Denzel Ward at number four, but the Cincinnati Bengals are also looking forward to year two for their top-10 pick from a season ago, wide receiver John Ross.
Already spending his rookie offseason recovering from a college injury, Ross was never really healthy during his rookie season, and has also taken the blame for attempting to come back from injury too quickly. He said that it merely set him back and took him even longer to get where he needs to be.
Ross ended up with just one touch for the entirety of the 2017 season, and that was on an end-around. While he might have gained 12 yards on the play, he was hit hard and fumbled the ball. It was a rather inauspicious debut to say the least.
He’s not thinking about that now. In fact, he’s not really thinking about much anymore, as per the advice of A.J. Green and others, who have told him to allow his talent to take over this year. “I didn’t know what I was getting in to”, he admitted.
“Last year I let everything get to me”, Ross told reporters recently. “I let my injury get to me. I was trying to do more than I could. I was out of shape. I’m not trying to make excuses, but it’s real-life things. You can’t just come in the NFL and be that guy. You have to come in and prepare. I’ve learned that. It’s growth and progression from here on”.
It is vitally important for the Bengals that the speedster pans out as intended, because they have been sorely lacking a strong complementary number two receiver to Green since they lost both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in the same offseason a couple of years ago.
Brandon LaFell has been serviceable at best as a veteran free agent signing, while 2017 second-round draft pick Tyler Boyd has had his moments but has lacked consistency, and is best suited for the number three role. To have Ross slide into that starter role opposite Green and perform well would be transformative for Cincinnati.
The first step for him to play better was to feel better, and he seems to have gotten that taken care of. “I couldn’t ask to feel any better than I do now”, he said. “It’s the best I’ve felt since I went into my last year of college”.
He has spent time this offseason working with Green, as well as former Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, on his craft, including his route-running. The Bengals begin their OTAs tomorrow, the first time he will take the practice field in an organized setting in quite a while. The start of a new chapter.