It is fair to say we were all disappointed by the lack of production from Bengals wide receiver John Ross in his rookie year. Whether it was the coaching staff keeping him of the field or injuries, the ninth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft didn’t even record a catch.
What made it worse was the Bengals’ desperate need for another playmaker alongside A.J. Green. The team lost Tyler Eifert after Week 2, and no other skill position player really stepped up to fill the void. Sure, Tyler Kroft caught plenty of touchdowns, but he did very little to help the team outside of the redzone. Fortunately for Green, his running mate looks to be healthy again.
“He’s got his confidence back,” Green told Sporting News of Ross. “The way he’s working this offseason is unbelievable. He’s healthy and explosive again.”
Green didn’t go into too much detail, but an update from someone with firsthand knowledge is all I need to get way too excited about the prospect of Ross returning in 2018. Although, it isn’t just Ross. The team re-signed Eifert who underwent several surgeries to get as close to 100 percent healthy as possible. He should be at that spot now. The Bengals also have a much improved offensive line, a more developed Joe Mixon and a healthy Giovani Bernard who is now a year removed from an alarmingly quick turnaround from an ACL injury.
Still, this is about Ross. If this team is going to take that next step and be one of the competitive teams in the AFC they need Ross to be able to capitalize on the one-on-one coverage he is bound to see. He has to show off that record breaking speed he showed at the Scouting Combine. Hopefully he also learns how to hold onto the ball a little better as one of his two touches in 2017 ended in a lost fumble.
Ross’ speed could change how defenses are forced to defend the Bengals. He could open up easier underneath passes for receivers like Tyler Boyd and Eifert. He could also help draw safeties’ attention away from Eifert and Green. All of this is dependent on him making plays though.
The way teams have recently been defending the Bengals is fairly simple. Try your best to take away Green, and let the rest of the supporting cast try and beat you. It worked for most of the teams the Bengals played last season.
The news of Ross being healthy is also coming after he spent time training with former Bengals receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Houshmandzadeh said he wanted to focus on bringing back Ross’ confidence after a rocky rookie season, and from what Green says it seems to have worked.
If the Bengals are going to be successful in 2018 then Ross will likely be a reason why. This year will go a long way in proving whether the Bengals got a bust or a true playmaker to pair with Green.
“We didn’t have those couple of games we needed to get in the playoffs, but in those last two games, we played unbelievable,” Green said. “We’re trying to carry that momentum into this year.”
Hopefully the momentum starts immediately when the Bengals begin the 2018 NFL season because this year’s schedule is far from easy.