John Ross’ time with the Cincinnati Bengals has not been a happy one, and the latest twist in the story is pretty much typical of his NFL career so far.
Ross will miss Sunday’s game, and potentially beyond, after suffering a foot injury during practice. The catch is how the injury took place, however. According to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, Ross volunteered to play defensive back in practice with the Bengals down to four healthy cornerbacks. On just his second play on defense, Ross suffered the foot injury.
That’s pretty much typical of Ross’ Bengals career. Unfortunately, he can’t really blame the team for this one. It sounds like he wanted to play on the defensive side of the ball during practice.
Ross has just two catches this season, having dealt with other injuries as well. The former 9th overall pick in 2017 had previously been publicly pushing for a trade, but didn’t get it before the deadline.
John Ross left little doubt on Friday that he wants out of Cincinnati.
The Bengals wide receiver publicly demanded a trade on Twitter, hinting at significant unhappiness with the organization. He also disputed reported characterizations of himself as unmotivated.
This essentially confirms reports from last week.
Ross has been a major bust since the Bengals made him the No. 9 overall pick in 2017. Injuries ruined his rookie year, and he hasn’t been able to get on track since. In total, he’s made just 51 catches for 733 yards in four seasons, and has only two receptions in 2020.
Ross will be hoping to get his wish, much like another Bengals player did recently.
AJ Green insists any talk of him wanting a trade out of Cincinnati is off-base, but the same cannot be said of another Bengals wide receiver.
John Ross, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, has barely been a part of the Bengals’ plans this season. The speedster has been inactive for multiple games and played just one snap against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. The agent representing Ross confirmed to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo this week that Ross has approached the Bengals about a trade.
Ross showed some flashes of his big-play ability last year with back-to-back games of 100-plus yards early in the season. He finished the year with just 28 catches, however, and the Bengals have given no indication that they expect him to be a reliable weapon for rookie quarterback Joe Burrow.
There were reports a while back that Cincinnati was shopping Ross in trade talks, though it’s unclear how far those discussions ever went. The former Washington star blew teams away with his speed at the NFL Combine several years ago, but that has not translated well to the NFL. Even if the Bengals do want to trade Ross, the return likely would not be that significant.
For most, the NFL stands for “Not For Long.” After all, perhaps more than any other professional sport in the world, the NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” league. Fortunes change quickly; today’s superstar could be tomorrow’s has-been. In some cases, talented players even become the “never was.”
Every year we see quality players simply run out of time. Sometimes it’s due to injury, other times it’s due to circumstance, but it’s always a possibility.
With that in mind, here’s a look at five NFL players who are running out of time to prove themselves.
5. John Ross, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
A first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, John Ross was expected to join the Bengals and create the league’s most elite one-two punch alongside A.J. Green. That, of course, did not happen, as Ross has failed to live up to the hype, while Green has seen injuries derail his career a bit. After having his fifth-year option declined and being the subject of past trade rumors, Ross now enters the final year of his rookie deal and faces what could be his last opportunity to prove his worth to any onlooking general manager. He did take a step in the right direction a season ago, posting career-highs across the board, but the production was still nowhere near what many expected of the Washington product and speedster. With a new quarterback (Joe Burrow) in town and his name dropping on the depth chart, things won’t come easy for Ross in 2020, but he has to find a way to maximize whatever opportunities come his way or risk saying goodbye to the NFL for good.
4. Josh Rosen, QB, Miami Dolphins
Josh Rosen has had it rough since the first moment he entered the NFL. In Arizona, he was billed as the franchise quarterback, but that lasted only a single season before the Cardinals switched head coaches, drafted Kyler Murray, and shipped Rosen off to Miami. With the Dolphins, Rosen was thrust into a new system and eventually found himself replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick. Now, similarly to how things played out in Arizona, Rosen enters the 2020 season in a battle with Tua Tagovailoa, on whom the Dolphins spent a high first-round pick. Several teams have reportedly called Miami to inquire about Rosen, who is very realistically running out of time — from an NFL standpoint and likely a mental standpoint. Whether he remains in Miami or ends up elsewhere, Rosen has to shake off the bad hand he’s been dealt and find a way to put it all together. Quickly.
3. DeAndre Baker, CB, New York Giants
It may be somewhat unfair to put Baker, a 2019 first-round pick, on this list, but after struggling mightily as a rookie, the Georgia product only compounded his problems by getting arrested and charged in connection with an armed robbery earlier this year. Even if Baker is proven to be innocent and has his charges dropped, he faces league discipline under the personal conduct policy. Prior to his arrest, Baker drew criticism from his teammates for unprofessional behavior and had been reported to have fallen asleep during several team meetings last season. Even after trading up for Baker and investing a first-round pick in him, the Giants won’t hesitate to make a change should these issues persist. Perhaps more than any other second-year player, Baker is on extremely thin ice.
2. O.J. Howard, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, O.J. Howard was widely expected to become the next Rob Gronkowski or Tony Gonzalez. Instead, Howard has been only moderately successful despite being surrounded by a high-end cast. He has yet to play a full 16-game slate, and his best season came in 2018 when he hauled in 34 receptions for 565 yards and five touchdowns. The Buccaneers have picked up his fifth-year option, so Howard does have some wiggle room, but with both Tom Brady and the aforementioned Gronkowski coming to town, he’ll have to remain healthy and find a higher level of production if he wants to stick. Short of that, Howard might be facing the end of his time in Tampa Bay, as well as some questions about his durability and value across the league.
1. David Johnson, RB, Houston Texans
Once upon a time, David Johnson looked like the next big thing. He displayed power, elusiveness, quickness, and every other attribute an NFL running back needs to be elite. However, injury issues cropped up in 2017 and then again in 2019, and he’s never been able to regain his early-career form. Those issues made Johnson expendable, which led to a trade from Arizona to Houston earlier this offseason. Now Johnson will get a fresh start with the Texans, but with just two years remaining on his current contract and only one season until there’s a potential out, Johnson does not have much room left. The opportunity to revitalize his career is being served up on a silver platter, but if he’s unable to regain his footing, the end may be near.
Before long, all 32 NFL teams will officially report to training camp in preparation for the 2019 regular season. It will be the beginning of a quest for Super Bowl LIV, and everyone should legitimately feel like they have a chance.
That extends to the players — both rookies and veterans — who will be trying to earn a job or secure a starting position.
It’s easy to point out highly-drafted rookies or fringe players who need to perform well in training camp, but what about players of prominence? Whether they’re coming off injury, switching positions, or just looking to rebound from a poor 2018 season, here are 10 players with the most to prove in training camp.
10. Joe Flacco, QB, Denver Broncos
The Broncos and John Elway are head-over-heels in love with Drew Lock if you listen to them tell the story, so what does that mean for veteran Joe Flacco, who came over from Baltimore after being put on the back burner in favor of a rookie quarterback last season? It must feel like the Twilight Zone for the former Super Bowl MVP. Needless to say, his starting job is anything but a given and a battle will ultimately rage in training camp. Flacco will need to prove he can still sling it at a top-end level, and he’ll have to do that with Lock breathing down his neck. Maybe the Broncos think the competition will bring out the best in Flacco. He seems to think it will.
The Cincinnati Bengals were hoping John Ross would emerge as one of the best wide receivers in football after they drafted him in the first round two years ago, but they are now exploring the possibility of moving on from the former Washington star.
Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com reports that the Bengals are planning to shop Ross to other teams during the NFL Scouting Combine this week and are hoping to trade him.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network later confirmed the report, noting that both sides appear to want a “fresh start.”
Ross appeared in just three games and did not catch a pass during his rookie season because of injuries. The former No. 9 overall pick played a lot more in 2018, but he still ended up with just 21 catches for 210 yards. Ross was, however, a consistent red zone target, as seven of his 21 catches were touchdowns.
Ross lit up the Combine with his speed two years ago, but that explosiveness has not transitioned well to the NFL. Perhaps he will have more success in another offense.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross has not been able to stay healthy during his first two seasons in the NFL, and he is reportedly looking at another lengthy absence after his latest injury.
According to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, Ross is expected to be out a few weeks after he aggravated a groin injury in Sunday night’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Bengals face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this weekend and then have their bye, so there’s a chance Ross could end up missing just two games. Given his history, however, it would not be a surprise if he is out longer.
Ross, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, came into the league with massive expectations due to his blazing speed and big play ability. He has just seven catches in five games this season, and Marvin Lewis was publicly critical of him last year. Things are not going well at the pro level for the former Washington star.
The NFL can be notoriously fickle. The risk of injury, the lack of guaranteed money, and the ever-changing game can alter the trajectory of a career very quickly. For some players, it leaves them in a position where they have to prove themselves again in order to re-establish themselves as top-tier stars.
Here are 15 players who are looking to do just that in 2018. They may have had off-field issues, a lot of injuries, are entering a contract year, or any combination thereof. Either way, all eyes will be on them this coming season, and it’s up to them to respond.
1) Odell Beckham Jr., Giants
There’s so much good about Beckham, but we haven’t seen enough of it in the last year or so. He hasn’t stayed healthy. He’s gotten involved in off-field distractions. He hasn’t produced to the standards he’s capable of even when healthy. Now entering a contract year, he needs to prove to the Giants and everyone else that he can let his football do the talking. So far, he’s reportedly off to a good start.
It may be hard to believe, but training camps are just around the corner, and that means meaningful football isn’t far off. It also means that previously injured players, under-performers and sophomores have another opportunity to prove they belong in the hard-hitting NFL.
Here’s a look at 32 players — one from each team — who are ready to make the leap entering the 2018 season.
Arizona Cardinals – Budda Baker, S
With the departure of Tyrann Mathieu, the Cardinals have an obvious void to fill in their secondary. Enter second-year safety Budda Baker, who is expected to take on a much larger defensive role for Steve Wilks. In an aggressive system (Wilks blitzed on 44 percent of the defensive snaps in Carolina), Baker should find himself in a position to excel as a sophomore and potentially even improve upon his already impressive 84.5 Pro Football Focus grade from a season ago.
Every year, we see NFL players across the league come into their own despite not having much of a track record. They can be all types; many are second- or third-year players who have matured and overcome injury or adapted to the NFL. There are others who were never highly-touted but find themselves in the right situation.
Each NFL team has breakout candidates. Here is a leading candidate from all of them.
Arizona Cardinals — Haason Reddick, LB
The 13th overall pick in last year’s draft flashed potential and appeared in all 16 games, but only started three of them. He still made an impact, with 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles on the season. The Cardinals plan to move him to inside linebacker, where he’s been studying tape of Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. That bodes well for a big year two breakout.
Atlanta Falcons — Austin Hooper, TE
Year three could be the one that sees Hooper mature into a big target at tight end. His numbers improved last season, as he caught 49 passes and scored three touchdowns. A more prominent role and regular playing time could await him in 2018 and make him a Matt Ryan favorite. He’ll just have to compete with Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Atlanta’s talented running backs for touches.