It is no secret that John Ross is a polarizing player among Bengals’ fans. The former first round pick is playing out the final year of his rookie contract after the team didn’t pickup his fifth-year option. It also seems unlikely that Ross will return after his contract is up with the possibility of a fresh start for both sides may be preferable.
That isn’t to say that Ross doesn’t still have people in his corner in Cincinnati’s circles. He went and worked out with former Bengal wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh again this offseason, and the former Pro Bowler thinks Ross has an elite skill set.
“The only guy in the league I can say can do what he does is Tyreek Hill. He’s that talented,” Houshmandzadeh told Dan Hoard on the Bengals Booth Podcast. “If he can maintain his level of confidence when things aren’t always great, the Bengals are gonna have a problem on their hands with A.J. (Green), Tyler Boyd, drafting Tee (Higgins) and Ross. There’s only so many balls to go around. Ross is the only guy on that team that can do what he does and that will always separate him.”
Ross had a rough start in the NFL. Seemingly all of his confidence was stripped from him by Marvin Lewis after a fumble on his first NFL touch landed him right in the doghouse with almost no chance to get out. Even during his great start to the 2019 season, there were some frustrating drops that had fans letting their feelings known. An Injury early in the season didn’t help anything as it added to the criticism of his ability to stay healthy.
Still, Houshmandzadeh feels like there is only one thing holding back Ross from meeting his potential, and it is finding that belief in himself no matter the situation.
“Physically, he should just be good,” Houshmandzadeh said. “With Ross, he is just so physically talented. I tell him this all the time, I say ‘Man, Ross. If we could switch roles...’ If I could give him my mentality or if he could give me his talent. Oh my god. Those two combinations would make the best receiver to ever play.
“He’s fast. He’s quick. He catches the ball well. He just has to believe he has all these qualities. A lot of me working with Ross is working with him mentally as well. It’s easy to be confident when things are going well. Can you be confident when things are going bad?”
This is the part we all know by heart. This is that time of the offseason where we talk about Ross’ upside. He absolutely has the talent to be a very good NFL wide receiver. We have all seen flashes of it from time to time, but we haven’t seen it consistently yet over his first three seasons.
There is a lot going in Ross’ favor in 2020. Joe Burrow is just a more consistent deep passer than Andy Dalton was, Burrow also has this way of making everyone around him more confident, Ross and A.J. Green actually have a chance to play in games together (which has really been a rare occurrence) and now he can play without the spotlight burning on top of him with a talented receiver group and Burrow taking the headlines. This absolutely could be the best year Ross has had, but at some point we just need to see it.
That seems like an unfair statement to make, but we have heard the Ross hype before each of the the last three seasons, and at some point it just becomes static that you can barely make the picture out to.
Hopefully, Ross and the rest of the offense can have a great bill of health the entire season, and we all see the player we thought the Bengals were getting all three years ago. It just gets hard to not roll your eyes at the talk.
Although, as fans, we all want to see the speedster stretch the field for big gains and proves Houshmandzadeh right.