The Bengals’ draft strategy in 2017 has been both praised and criticized by analysts and fans alike. Despite experiencing significant losses on the offensive line this offseason, the Bengals chose to load up with offensive weapons. At wide receiver, they picked up former Washington Huskie and combine superstar John Ross in the first round as well as a big, speedy receiver out of the University of Tennessee, Josh Malone. One player who is particularly excited about the new receiver help is superstar receiver A.J. Green.
“I think both of those guys can be fun. I feel like both of them can run,” Green told Mo Egger of ESPN 1530. “Josh is a bigger guy, he can go up over the top of you to make the big catches, but he can also run. I think those two they’ll be fine because they both ran pro offenses in college.”
As arguably the Bengals best player, regardless of position, Green has no reason to feel any pressure from the new guys, like virtually every other receiver on the roster does. Evidently, the Bengals are hoping to keep all seven of their roster-worthy receivers on the final roster. But, the only player other than Green who doesn’t need to watch his back is likely Ross, the Bengals No. 9 overall pick in the draft. He seems to have already made a lasting impression on Green.
“It was a big help for us. That’s a guy who doesn’t come around that often,” Green said. “One thing about him, the speed translates to the field. There’s a lot of these guys who run fast but don’t play as fast as they run.”
At Washington, Ross terrorized defensive backs simply with his ability to run past them. He isn’t a big guy, a particularly physical receiver, or the most well-refined player in terms of his catching ability. But, he knows how to get open and blaze by would-be tacklers once he gets the ball in his hands.
For that reason, it is no wonder Green is excited to play next to him. One of Green’s biggest problems in 2016, when healthy, was the lack of other receiving options opposing defenses needed to respect. Therefore, Green was being consistently double and triple teamed, explaining why he had a habit of disappearing in certain games. But, fielding an ultra-talented deep threat like Ross means opposing secondaries will either have to allow Green more space to work with or risk Ross finding an easy, open lane for the big play.
“With him we can line him up in the slot and he can take the top off. Put a ball in his hands and let him make the plays,” Green said. “I think the biggest thing with him is he’s so dynamic, we can put him all over the field. A lot of people have to play us honest now because we have that threat that can really take the top off.”
The combination of Ross and Malone should bring an element to the Bengals’ passing game that hasn’t been prevalent since Marvin Jones left for the Lions and Mohamed Sanu for the Falcons. That’s the deep ball and the homerun play. Much of the Bengals’ passing scheme lately has been based on short-to-intermediate passing plays because that’s what guys like Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, Alex Erickson, and James Wright were best suited for. The only player other than Green who was known as a deep threat in 2016 was Cody Core, but he didn’t see the field enough to make a difference in the Bengals’ overall offensive scheme. But, going forward, Green and the Bengals should have every reason to be excited about potential in the passing game.