The Cincinnati Bengals didn’t get anywhere near what they were looking for from John Ross during his rookie season after they used a high first-round draft pick on the wide receiver in the 2017 NFL Draft. The owner of the fastest 40-yard dash time in the history of the Combine didn’t catch a single pass. The only touch he had resulted in a fumble.
Injuries played a huge part in Ross’ inability to contribute effectively, but it wasn’t the whole story. He said that he came back too soon from injury, and that shook his confidence some. But his teammate, A.J. Green, has been working with him this offseason and sees a different player.
“He’s got his confidence back”, the Pro Bowl wideout said of his young teammate, a fellow first-round choice. “The way he’s working this offseason is unbelievable. He’s healthy and explosive again”.
Ross was already coming off an injury when he came out for the draft and never really seemed to be fully healthy at any point, but he pushed to get himself to play. Now that he has gotten the opportunity to give his body the appropriate time to recover, he is hoping to have the sort of impact expected of him in year two.
One of the steps he is taking in pursuit of that effort is to work on the nuances of his route-running for a Bengals alumnus, T.J. Houshmandzadeh. While Pittsburgh Steelers fans might be remember him for disrespecting the Terrible Towel, he was fairly accomplished receiver in his time, primarily working as a possession guy whose strength was running precise routes and finding the holes in zone coverages.
“You get to this level, everybody can run”, the retired wide receiver said of his young counterpart. “Your technique and ability to separate has to come to the forefront because you can’t beat everybody with speed”. Something certain Steelers fans should probably keep in mind regarding James Washington and his 40-yard dash time.
Cincinnati’s offense has yet to really recover from the losses of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu a couple of years ago. In addition to using a first-round pick on Ross last year, they also drafted Tyler Boyd in the second round the year before and signed veteran Brandon LaFell in free agency.
The Bengals have also worked on restocking their offensive line, which had been stripped of talent lately. They made a trade to acquire left tackle Cordy Glenn from the Buffalo Bills and they used their 2018 first-round draft pick on center Billy Price. There are still some other issues to work out, but they should be more solid than last season after suffering the losses of both Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler.