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Bengals rookie receiver John Ross fumbles away shot in debut

The Bengals’ 2017 first-round pick showed both his promise and carelessness on Thursday night against the Texans.

Houston Texans v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

This offseason, the Cincinnati Bengals’ powers-that-be felt that the offense needed an influx of youth and athleticism. Instead of investing in the offensive line, however, Cincinnati decided to go with flash at the skill positions in the form of John Ross and Joe Mixon.

In Ross, the NFL record holder for the 40-yard dash time, the Bengals felt that they had an ample, long-term replacement opposite of A.J. Green. Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu left in free agency in the spring of 2016 and things just haven’t been right since.

Given his speed and shiftiness, Ross brings a lot to the table. Unfortunately, injuries and other issues have forced the Bengals to set him aside, more or less, for the first two games of the year.

In the preseason, Ross suited up for just two games, with the bulk of his touches coming in the preseason finale against the Indianapolis Colts. In that game, he had a catch for six yards and another carry for 25 more. On the latter play, he hurt his knee, which ended up keeping him out of the regular season opener against Baltimore.

After seeing progress in his sprained knee this week and obviously wanting an injection of some “oomph” in the offense, Ross was active for the first time in a regular season game on Thursday night. And, the results weren’t the greatest.

Desperate to find a spark, Ken Zampese dialed up a flip to Ross against the Houston Texans on Thursday night. Initially, it looked to be just the type of play the Bengals needed, however, it ended in disaster, as Ross was nailed and fumbled the ball aways to Houston.

“I should be higher and tighter with the ball. It was a good play by him. He got his helmet on the ball,” Ross said, via Geoff Hobson of "It’s my first game, and I got my feet wet a little bit. You’re always going to learn stuff like this. I was also told that one play doesn’t make your NFL career. I’ve got a lot more opportunities to come.”

While Ross seems to have learned his lesson, it really wasn’t a terrible play on his part. The rookie seemed to have the ball relatively secure, when Kareem Jackson put his helmet square on the football. It popped up into Jadaveon Clowney’s loving arms and set up a Ka’imi Fairbairn field goal.

Even though the Bengals have struggled on offense and getting in the end zone, they are deep at wide receiver, limiting the early need for Ross. Still, his skill set seems to be one that usurps the long-term plan and gives the team more to work with and give Andy Dalton confidence in a time he desperately needs it.

To summarize Ross’ brief career and the struggles the Bengals have had in the first two weeks, between the preseason and the regular season, Ross has four total touches, resulting in 61 total yards (nearly a 15.3-yard average), a knee injury and a lost fumble. It really speaks to how an explosive rookie can giveth and taketh away.