John Ross was a top-10 pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017, recording the fastest-ever 40-yard dash time in the history of the NFL Scouting Combine. The speedy wide receiver has flirted with the bust label early on in his career, but even as his performance has improved, his health has been another matter. He has played just 24 out of 48 games in his first three seasons.
Ross was limited to eight games last year for the Bengals, in a season in which star wide receiver A.J. Green did not play at all. He finished his third season in the NFL with 28 receptions on 56 targets, but he was pretty efficient with them, producing 506 yards (an 18.1-yard average) with three touchdowns. Amazingly, he had seven touchdowns on just 21 receptions the year before, though for just 210 yards.
For 2020, Cincinnati is hoping to have its full arsenal available—presumably for Joe Burrow—when the offense takes the field for the first time. Despite coming off injury, the Bengals still expect to keep Green as he is set to hit free agency.
After going 2-14 through a dismal season full of injuries, however, they are drawing inspiration from the San Francisco 49ers, who bounced back from ill health and used a great draft class to vault itself all the way to the Super Bowl after finishing as one of the worst teams in the league in 2018.
Said Ross, “it’s become the norm for the media to attack a team that doesn’t do that well. It’s not OK, but it comes with the territory. Once we start doing better, we’ll flip the script just like the San Francisco 49ers”.
“Two years ago they won four games”, he added. “Now they go play in a Super Bowl. That can be very much anyone’s story. Just how hard you work in the offseason and how well the team comes together. We’ll see where the next couple of months ago”.
The Bengals have been an under-.500 team for the past four seasons. Prior to that, they did make the postseason for five consecutive years, with remains a pretty rare feat for any era. Even the Steelers have not done that in over 20 years.
The problem with that run of postseason bids is the fact that they accomplished nothing with it. While they won a couple of division titles, and thus hosted a couple of games, they never earned a first-round bye. They never got out of the Wildcard Round. In fact, they haven’t won a playoff game of any kind inf 29 years.
That’s a handful of years before Ross, who turned 25 in November, was even born. So it’s a little ambitious to talk of the Bengals, of all teams, in light of the worst-to-first narrative. Let’s just work on getting a winning record again, and then we’ll talk about broader ambitions.