In the Bengals’ 31-21 loss to the Panthers, second-year wide receiver John Ross was targeted seven times and hauled in three receptions for 16 yards. Every time Ross gets the ball in his hands, he commands attention. But on Sunday, he turned more heads when he didn’t catch the ball.
Two plays specifically stood out for Ross. The first one was a deep pass in the first quarter that went over Ross’ head. Even though the ball was overthrown, Ross looked like he still could have made a play on the ball, or maybe tried harder. This didn’t get much attention in the long run, though, because the Bengals scored a touchdown on the drive. So the missed opportunity was inconsequential.
The second play was much more egregious because the play resulted in an interception when the Bengals were trying to overcome a seven-point deficit.
Deep in their own territory, Andy Dalton was under pressure and unloaded a deep ball to Ross, which fell safely into the arms of Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson. Of course, the throw was bad and nowhere near where Ross looked like was was going, but Ross did appear to give up on the route without realizing the ball was thrown to him.
That was the second interception Dalton threw targeting Ross. The first one was all on Dalton, though, as he threw into really tight coverage and Donte Jackson made a great play on the ball.
Dalton forcefeeds Ross. Not good. pic.twitter.com/DKsEuXW4hL— Dadio McDuck (@dadiodefacto) September 23, 2018
Ross’ teammates in the wide receiver room were asked about his performance on Sunday.
A.J. Green, the seven-time Pro Bowler, said that Ross is going to “have to go fight for those balls.”
“You’ve just got to learn,” Green said of Ross, via Jay Morrison. “If Andy’s going to throw the ball to you, he has the confidence in you to go make the play. It’s either going to be incomplete or it’s going to be a catch.”
Unfortunately it was an interception twice on Sunday when Ross was targeted.
“You just have to go fight for those balls. 50-50 balls, he’s giving you a shot. We’ll work on that and go from there.”
It seems like Green was saying Ross didn’t fight hard enough to make plays on Sunday, which is what many fans thought, too.
Tyler Boyd, who now leads the team with 249 receiving yards, was also critical but easier on Ross.
“That’s something you’ve got to have, you’ve got to know,” Boyd said when asked if Ross could have fought harder on the two interceptions on plays on which he was targeted. “I . can’t really say too much about it. I trust him. I believe in his game. I think he’s going to overcome this. But I don’t know what that was.”
Both Green and Boyd basically said the same thing: Ross must get better, but he has the ability to do so. They both used the phrase “have to” or “has to,” showing that those are plays that an NFL receiver makes.
“That’s our guy. He’s got to spend the rest of the year with us,” Boyd added. “We’re going to see him every day. I trust him. He’s just got to break the shell. That’s all it is. He’s got to stop worrying about all the other stuff and just play football. It’s going to come. That’s what I told him.”
Both Green and Boyd will work with Ross to make sure he becomes that top-tier receiver that the Bengals were looking for in the first round of last year’s draft.
For now, its becoming more clear why Marvin Lewis was so hesitant to play Ross last year.
Hopefully, Ross can overcome the problems he’s facing so that he can live up to his NFL potential.