John Ross, the Cincinnati Bengals’ No. 9 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, has missed the first two preseason games while fully rehabbing from shoulder surgery he underwent after the NFL Combine. That said, his progress has been steady, and he seems ready to finally make his debut with the team in the preseason Week 3 matchup with the Washington Redskins.
“I’m looking forward to being moved around. Anywhere in the offense,” Ross said via Bengals.com. “I think they’re doing a good job helping me learn the offense, and where I can be put in different places.”
When Ross steps out onto the field for the Bengals, his impact should be noticed immediately. Before this season, the Bengals didn’t have any particularly speedy home-run threats to take the top off of an unsuspecting defense. There was A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, but they both tend to rely more on their athleticism and size. Ross is expected to bring a new top-tier element to an offense in need of variety.
“Anything they give me a chance to do, I’m looking forward to do it,” Ross said. “I’m just trying to get better at all these things … I don’t really have any individual goals. I just want to help the offense play well and win the game.”
Helping the offense play well will certainly go a long way toward solidifying Ross’ role with the team both in his rookie year and in the future. The Bengals already know all about his natural talent for the position, highlighted by the numbers he put up at the Combine.
“4.22 looks good on TV. On paper. I’m not ever going to run 4.22 in a game. It’s totally different,” Ross said. “That’s way beyond football. That’s straight line speed. It’s very, very, very rare for someone to run a 40 in a football game. Especially at my position.”
That said, it is more important to see his speed translate to the field.
“There are guys who haven’t run a 4.22, but they can keep up with me,” Ross said. “It’s technique. It’s more mental than physical. Of course, I have the physical traits to run by someone, but it’s not’s that easy anymore. Cody [Core] can straight out fly and he didn’t run a 4.2. It’s just totally different. I’m just trying to keep up with mine.”
It will be an interesting transition for the young receiver, who absolutely dominated his peers on the college level. But, assuming he plays on Sunday, most of the other players will already have at least two more weeks of in-game experience than him. Not to mention, he’ll be facing NFL veterans and rookies alike. Producing to his potential at the NFL level will be something he isn’t used to. But hopefully, it will be something his coaches have prepared him for.
“You can tell (the speed of the game) is much faster. Just watching the games and even at practice. Much faster,” Ross said. “I anticipate it being a little bit faster in the games. I have to play fast. I know that’s easy for me to say. I know I have to play faster than how the game is actually played.”
Playing ‘fast’ doesn’t seem like something Ross should be particularly worried about. If anything, his 4.22 speed and college film should tell you that. The primary concerns rest around his play-strength, size, and consistent route-running. But, it will be interesting to see just how far he has come when it is finally time for him to debut in black and orange.