John Ross working out with T.J. Houshmandzadeh

PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 20: T.J. Houshmandzadeh
PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 20: T.J. Houshmandzadeh /

After a disappointing rookie season, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross is working out with former wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

After the Cincinnati Bengals drafted wide receiver John Ross from the University of Washington at ninth overall last year, Ross went on to have a very disappointing rookie season. With not a single catch to his name and only one carry in which he fumbled, the rookie ended the season on Injured Reserve. Ross looks to turn that around in 2018 as he has been active in his workouts and getting into football shape for the start of minicamps.

There was the Instagram photo showing him working out with numerous wide receivers in the league, including one JuJu Smith-Schuster from the Pittsburgh Steelers recently, and now it seems he is working out with former Bengals receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. From what Houshmandzadeh told Geoff Hobson of the Bengals website, Ross can be unstoppable.

This is not the first time the two have met, however. When Ross was still attending Long Beach’s Jordan High School, Houshmandzadeh pulled Ross aside and gave him some college advice. This time Ross reached out and asked if he would work with him this offseason and Houshmandzadeh agreed. The first thing for the two to work on is building Ross’ confidence back up.

"“People overlook the mental part of it,” Houshmandzadeh says. “Physically, he wouldn’t have been drafted ninth if he didn’t have it. He’s got to understand that he was drafted ninth for a reason. The ninth out of every kid in college football. I don’t care you didn’t play well last year,” he says. “The ninth pick and you’re not playing, you’re going to lose confidence … I’m trying to bring that back to him.”"

Houshmandzadeh explained how he went through a similar situation when he was still a young football player. After having a great first two seasons in the league, he was nearly cut by the team after battling nagging hamstring injuries. He never lost his confidence, though, and got right back up in 2004 and caught 73 passes. Houshmandzadeh has the third highest amount of catches for any Bengals receiver with 507. He talked about what he thinks Ross can accomplish and that he does believe he can be an elite receiver.

"“I’m trying to get him to believe in himself unconditionally,” Houshmandzadeh says.Because he says the kid has it all. Yes. Ross, the fastest man ever to run the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting, is as advertised, he says. Houshmandzadeh says his initial burst off the line is elite and reminds him of another Bengals seventh-round wide receiver, LSU’s Bennie Brazell, an Olympic hurdler.“The quarterback says, ‘Set-hut,’ and he’s gone,” Houshmandzadeh says. “He’s not just fast. He’s quick. He’s got good lateral quickness. And he’s got some size. He’s bigger than you think. He’s 5-11 and has to be 190 (pounds). He’s short, but he’s not small. He’s got some thickness to him. “"

The next thing for Ross to work on with Houshmandzadeh that made him and wide receiver Chad Ochocinco so dominant in the NFL is his footwork. Speed is not everything in the NFL and you have to be able to get around defenses without just speed. He believes that if Ross can develop some better footwork, he can be a top receiver in the league.

"“That took us years. It won’t happen overnight,” Houshmandzadeh says.  “He’s been fast his whole life. Whoever worked with him has never really gone over the basics and the nuances of route running. You can’t always run by you. You get to this level, everybody can run. Your technique and ability to separate has to come to the forefront because you can’t beat everybody with speed. That’s what I’m trying to get him to understand. He’s got speed no one else has.”"

Between Houshmandzadeh and Ochocinco, the duo hauled in more than 1,200 catches for the Bengals. While it will take some time to work on Ross’ footwork as it took them a couple years, he is confident in the wide receiver Ross can become. All they have to do is work on some of those basics with route running and establish that confidence again. It could be an interesting year for Ross as he is coming into camps fully healthy for the first time and looks to show the Bengals they didn’t make a mistake drafting him so high in last year’s draft.

Next: 2017 Quarterback review

If Ross can develop into what Houshmandzadeh believes he can over the next couple of seasons, could we be looking at another elite duo for the Bengals wide receivers group? Lining up across from wide receiver A.J. Green and finally having a receiver opposite of Green to take away the blankets of defenders solely focusing on him? It should be a fun season to see what Ross can do finally healthy and with something to prove for the Bengals in 2018.