What the Cincinnati Bengals need from John Ross in 2020
The Bengals drafted Tee Higgins to help round out their receiving corps but incumbent John Ross can still make a difference for Cincinnati this year.
When John Ross broke the 40-yard-dash record during the 2017 combine with a 4.22 run, a lot of excitement was generated that surrounded the potential the speedster could bring. The new-found hype vaulted him into the top-10 of the draft, where he heard his name called by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Now, three years later, optimism for the former Washington star has diminished. So much so that the Bengals elected to use their second-round draft pick this year on Tee Higgins to provide more firepower alongside A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd.
Time is not yet up on for Ross, however. He can still make a big difference for Cincinnati this year if he can put a few things together.
John Ross must first shed his injury concerns
First, Ross must stay healthy. Since trading in his collegiate Husky uniform for professional stripes, the often injured receiver has been sidelined for 24 contests. Not being able to play an entire season is a big reason the Bengals do not view him as the long term solution to their wide receivers.
When Ross is on the field, he must turn into a more reliable option. Last year, he caught only 50% of passes that were thrown his way. While he accumulated an impressive 18.1 yards per reception, he wasn’t hanging on to the ball enough to make a difference consistently.
Finally, with new franchise quarterback Joe Burrow coming in, the offense needs to tailor around his strengths. One of Burrow’s best attributes is his deep accuracy.
The Bengals do not need Ross to be a 1,000+ yard receiver or the focal point of the offense. However, he does need to constantly pose a vertical threat so that Burrow can get the most out of his best attributes. Forcing corners to play off him or causing safeties to provide help over the top creates more room for the rest of the offense and opens up the playbook.
If Ross stays healthy, works on his reliability, and forces opposing defenses to respect his vertical threat potential, he’ll accomplish everything the Bengals need him to and help the offense greatly.