First-round wide receiver John Ross finally made his NFL debut with the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday against the Washington Redskins on Sunday. He was generally quiet, failing to reel in either of his two targets in the passing game, though one of them was overthrown. He was featured on a running play, which he took for an eight-yard gain. That said, he only received 19 snaps on the day, less than five other Bengals receivers. He certainly hopes, going forward, the team will afford him more opportunities to play and develop.
Ross told Bengals radio announcer Dan Hoard he hopes to “get a lot of snaps” when the Bengals take on the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night.
I asked John Ross if he'd like to get a few snaps in the final preseason game: "I'd like to get a lot of snaps. I think I need to" pic.twitter.com/MNzsFaACNK— Dan Hoard (@Dan_Hoard) August 28, 2017
His perspective makes a lot of sense. Granted, the Bengals were possibly holding him back on Sunday as he was just returning from a major injury. But, giving so little game time to a player expected to have a big role in the offense isn’t ideal. He needs to get as much playing time as he can before the season starts to adjust to the speed and physicality of an NFL game.
Ross is expected to be a huge playmaker for the Bengals’ offense. He won’t unseat A.J. Green as the team’s top receiving threat, but he could establish himself as the undisputed No. 2 wide receiver by next year. His speed, precision route-running, ball-tracking ability, and home-run threat make him an extremely intriguing prospect.
There is no doubt the Bengals will eventually want to give Ross more opportunities than Brandon LaFell, Cody Core, Alonzo Russell, and Alex Erickson, all of whom played more snaps on Sunday. That said, Erickson and LaFell were both much more productive in the passing game than Ross, so it could require the rookie to prove he can handle more playing time before the Bengals give it to him.
Then again, it would be crazy to think the Bengals wouldn’t want to give him considerable playing time in the regular season. They drafted him with a top 10 pick for a reason, primarily because he brings so many physical tools to the field, even if he is somewhat undersized and has durability concerns.
Ross is an extremely talented receiver who the Bengals have already invested quite a bit into. We know he has all the tools to be great. If anything, his one productive play from Sunday’s game displays his natural speed and determination. With more plays like this, the Bengals should be looking for every possible excuse to get the ball in his hands.
If he harnesses his strengths while improving his physicality and agility, he could potentially challenge Tyler Eifert as the No. 2 receiving threat. It would take quite a bit of improvement from his performance in his first game to convince the Bengals to have his role be that large, but hopefully as a top 10 pick he proves himself worthy of that opportunity.
Ultimately, his development will come down to how much playing time the Bengals are willing to give him this early in his career. Coming off a major injury, the Bengals are lucky they were able to get him into practices and preseason games before the season started. But, his development will still require a concerted effort from both Ross and the coaches toward increasing his playing time. He will need to prove his production for the extra snaps, and the Bengals will need to find more excuses to put him in the games and get the ball in his hands.
The starters are not expected to play on Thursday, but it seems Ross wants to and likely will be playing in the final preseason contest.