John Ross

Bengals Place John Ross On IR

Receivers are dropping like flies. Just moments after we heard the Chargers were placing Dontrelle Inman on injured reserve, we got word of another wideout hitting the shelf. The Bengals are placing John Ross on IR, according to a tweet from Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic.

Dehner notes that the Bengals have promoted receiver Stanley Morgan from the practice squad in a corresponding roster move, and that it’s a sternocavicular injury for Ross. We heard yesterday that Ross was going to miss some time, but it was initially reported as something that would sideline him for around a month. Now, he’ll have to miss the next eight weeks at least. On the bright side Ross is expected back this season, and the injury had about a six-week timetable but the Bengals wanted to give him extra rest, tweets Mike Garafolo of NFL Network.

It’s a tough blow for Ross, and for the Bengals’ offense. The ninth overall pick of the 2017 draft, who had been written off by many as a bust, was finally starting to make an impact. Injuries and a lack of trust from Marvin Lewis had plagued Ross’ first two years in Cincy, but he had 270 yards through the first two games of this season and was starting to look like the elite deep threat he was supposed to be.

With A.J. Green still not set to return anytime soon, the Bengals’ 0-4 offense is in dire circumstances. Second-year seventh-round pick Auden Tate will now be asked to play a big role moving forward. Morgan is an undrafted rookie from Nebraska who was waived at final cuts.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

John Ross To Miss Multiple Games

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but John Ross is going to be missing time with a significant injury. The talented but oft-hurt receiver will miss multiple games due to a shoulder injury he suffered on Monday Night Football against the Steelers, sources told Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (Twitter link).

Garafolo notes that his time on the sidelines “could be in the range of a month or so.” It’s devastating news for Ross, as he was finally starting to come on strong. Injuries have plagued the ninth overall pick of the 2017 draft during his football career, dating all the way back to an ACL tear he suffered in college. Knee and shoulder issues limited him as a rookie, and he ended up in Marvin Lewis’ doghouse.

Ross was frequently a healthy scratch under Lewis as a rookie, and after an underwhelming sophomore season, many people labeled him a bust. He reportedly had a strong offseason, and started to thrive in new coach Zac Taylor’s system. He had 270 yards receiving and three touchdowns through the first two weeks of the season, and looked like the blazing fast deep threat he was always supposed to be coming into the league.

Now, it’s yet another setback for the Washington product. It’s also the last thing this Bengals team needed, as their offense looked terrible on Monday night in a 27-3 loss to Pittsburgh. A.J. Green doesn’t look like he’s particularly close to returning from his ankle injury, so Cincinnati’s receiving corp will be very thin moving forward. They’ll be leaning heavily on Tyler Boyd moving forward. Taylor’s tenure has gotten off to a disastrous start, as the Bengals are now 0-4. He’ll try to pick up his first win as a head coach in Week 5 against the Cardinals.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Ravens, Steelers, Browns

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh told reporters last week that slot cornerback Tavon Young could miss the 2019 season after suffering a serious neck injury, but the club hasn’t been given an update on the status of the 25-year-old defensive back. “Nothing definitive,” Harbaugh said, per Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com (Twitter link). “It’s in the opinions of the doctors. I’m sure there are different ways of looking at it, so they’ll probably see how it goes in the next week or two or three, and see what the progress is.” If Young is sidelined for the upcoming campaign, Baltimore will likely deploy Brandon Carr in the slot, while Cyrus Jones is also a candidate to see work inside.

Here’s more from the AFC North:

  • John Ross will finally make his 2019 practice debut early next week, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor told reporters, including Ben Baby of ESPN.com (Twitter link). A hamstring injury has forced Ross to sit out of practice sessions thus far, but if the former ninth overall pick gets in two weeks of work, Taylor believes he’ll be ready for the season opener against the Seahawks. Cincinnati will already be without A.J. Green for the first few weeks of the season after the veteran pass-catcher suffered an ankle injury in July, so getting Ross on the field would be a boon to the club’s offense. Ross, 24, posted only 21 receptions a year ago but did haul in seven touchdowns.
  • More from Cincinnati, where receiver depth isn’t the only roster issue: Cordy Glenn has been diagnosed with a concussion, meaning the left tackle may not be ready for Week 1, tweets Jay Morrison of The Athletic. As a result, the Bengals — who have already lost rookie left tackle Jonah Williams (shoulder injury) and left guard Clint Boling (retirement), may be forced to use Andre Smith as Andy Dalton‘s blindside protector, per Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Smith, now in his fourth stint with the Bengals, does have some experience at left tackle, but the overwhelming majority of his NFL time has been spent on the right side.
  • Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton has posted a “tremendous” preseason and could have a significant role on Pittsburgh’s defense, according to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic. Sutton has played so well that he could potentially overtake Mike Hilton as the team’s slot corner. At worst, Sutton is likely to serve as the Steelers’ third outside corner behind Joe Haden and Steven Nelson and play as a dime linebacker in six-defensive back looks. Sutton, a third-round pick out of Tennessee in 2017, played 113 defensive snaps during his rookie campaign and 240 last season.
  • The Browns now have three candidates to replace Kevin Zeitler at right guard, as Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com writes. Veteran Eric Kush was thought to be leading the competition against 2018 second-round pick Austin Corbett, but rookie sixth-rounder Drew Forbes has also entered the mix. Per head coach Freddie Kitchens, the battle is still wide open. Corbett, though, hasn’t practiced at right guard in weeks, and is instead working as Cleveland’s backup center.

AFC Notes: Kraft, Patriots, Bengals

Patriots owner Robert Kraft might not be out of the woods just yet. We heard a few days ago that a judge had ruled in favor of Kraft’s legal team to suppress video evidence in his case that had allegedly been obtained illegally. It was a major procedural win for Kraft, and indicated he might get out of his situation without being convicted of anything. That being said, the government isn’t going down without a fight. Prosecutors are appealing the judges decision, and are looking to get the video evidence reinstated, per T.J. Quinn of ESPN.com.

Kraft’s attorney William Burck celebrated the news, saying it was a sign that the government’s case was very weak without the tape. The lead prosecutor is “acknowledging he has no case without the illegal video recordings that four Florida judges have now found to be unconstitutional,” Burck said. “No evidence means no trial. So the state had only two options — drop the case or appeal. They chose to appeal, but we are confident the appellate court will agree with Judge Hanser and the other judges who threw out their illegally obtained evidence.” Even if Burck is right and the state eventually drops the case, the Patriots boss could still face discipline from the league. How likely Roger Goodell is to issue punishment without a conviction is anyone’s guess. We’ll keep you updated when a ruling on the appeal comes in.

Here’s more from the AFC on a quiet Sunday afternoon:

  • Speaking of the Patriots, they now have a very crowded running backs room. James White, Sony Michel, core special teamer Brandon Bolden (who just got $2MM guaranteed to return to New England), and last month’s third round pick Damien Harris all seem like locks to make the roster and be active on game-days. As such, Rex Burkhead could be the odd-man out, writes Jeff Howe of The Athletic. Howe doesn’t think the Pats will cut Burkhead as long as he’s healthy, but he could be facing an uphill battle to be on the active-46 on Sundays. Howe points out that Bill Belichick is usually pretty steadfast about keeping only four running backs active, but he could make an exception if Burkhead’s special teams prowess is deemed too valuable. Burkhead is heading into the second year of a three-year extension he signed in March of 2018, and it’s not inconceivable he could be cut this offseason. Injuries limited him to just eight games last year, and ten in 2017.
  • John Ross didn’t participate in the Bengals’ veterans voluntary minicamp last month due to “tightness,” per Geoff Hobson of the team’s official site. This isn’t necessarily major news, but it’s notable because of Ross’ lengthy history with lower body injuries. Groin issues forced Ross to miss a few games last year, and he only played in three games as a rookie due to shoulder and knee issues, so it’s troubling he’s dealing with any sort of “tightness.” The ninth overall pick in the 2017 draft has proven he can be a burner, but not much else. We heard back in February the team was shopping the young wideout, but the Bengals pushed back on those reports soon after. New Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor has promised Ross a fresh start, but he’ll need to stay healthy to get that. He’ll have his work cut out for him carving out targets behind A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd, who are entrenched as the first and second options. If he wants to avoid being labeled as a bust, he needs a big 2019.

Bengals: We’re Not Shopping John Ross

Multiple reports indicate the Bengals are looking to trade John Ross, but the club says that’s not accurate. On Wednesday, Bengals Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin called those rumors “fake news,” and added that the club has no plans to trade the wide receiver. 

We have had no discussion about [Ross],” Tobin said (Twitter link via Eric Edholm of Pro Football Weekly). “That’s from the ‘ready, fire, aim’ school of journalism.”

Just two years ago, Ross turned heads as an ultra-speedy prospect out of Washington. Unfortunately, injuries sidetracked him as a rookie and his usage was inconsistent in 2018. It seems unlikely that Ross is a major part of the Bengals’ plans moving forward, so Tobin’s denial should be taken with a grain of salt.

Instead, Tobin’s comments at the combine could be a last ditch effort to salvage Ross’ trade value. After investing a top 10 pick in Ross, the Bengals do not necessarily want to trade the speedster for pennies on the dollar. This year’s free agent wide receiver class is lackluster, so the Bengals could be holding out hope for an OK return via trade.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bengals Shopping WR John Ross

The Bengals are hoping to trade receiver John Ross, according to Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com (on Twitter). The club plans to field offers during the combine this week. 

Both Ross and the Bengals are looking forward to a fresh start, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. That makes sense, given Ross’ injuries, lack of production, and inconsistent usage. Two years ago, Ross turned heads with a 4.22-second 40-yard dash at the combine. Since then, he has amassed just 21 catches for 210 yards, though he did have seven touchdown catches in 2018.

Ross, 24, missed the bulk of his rookie season after having both of his shoulders operated on and suffering a groin injury. He appeared in most of the Bengals’ games in 2018, but he was held to one catch or less in six of his games.

Other teams may view Ross as a speedy deep threat with potential, but the Bengals will not recoup the first-round pick (No. 9 overall) they used to draft Ross in 2017. But, given this year’s so-so market for free agent wide receivers, Ross could net them a mid-round pick.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bengals WR John Ross To Miss Time

Bengals wide receiver John Ross is expected to miss a few weeks with a groin injury he aggravated on Sunday, a source tells Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). Ross, of course, is no stranger to the sidelines after missing the bulk of his rookie season with injuries. 

The silver lining for the Bengals is that they have a Week 9 bye after their Sunday contest against the Buccaneers. After that, Ross may have a shot at returning against the Saints on Nov. 11, or on Nov. 18 against the Ravens.

Ross, 24 next month, has just seven catches for 79 yards through five games this year. On the plus side, he has two touchdown grabs – one coming against the Colts in the season opener, and the other in Week 4 against the Falcons.

Ross brings serious speed to the Bengals offense, but he has yet to bring production. Some expected an uptick in his usage after tight end Tyler Eifert was lost for the year, but that has not materialized so far. While Ross is out, the Bengals will continue to run their aerial game through star A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Packers, Q. Diggs, Conner

We heard last month that the Packers would be going “back to Page 1” of their playbook, but as Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal writes, Green Bay is not going to be making any wholesale changes to its offense. In light of all of the new voices on the offensive side of the ball this year — Joe Philbin is back as OC, Frank Cignetti Jr. is in as quarterbacks coach, and there are several other staff changes besides — it made sense for all involved to thoroughly review the team’s play design and philosophy. But as Philbin said, “It’s been a process of refining, enhancing, tweaking, as opposed to, ‘Yeah we scrubbed it down.’ Yes, we went page by page. (But) we’re not starting from scratch here. These players in that locker room, they’ve done some great things.” 

Philbin, of course, is primarily referring to star quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers indicated that verbiage has changed — and Philbin acknowledged that such changes were made in order to streamline the playcalling — and that has created something of a learning curve. But passing game Jim Hostler said that the goal is for the offense to look the same as it always has with Rodgers under center, even if there are some refinements and enhancements here and there.

Now for more from the league’s north divisions:

  • Opposing defenses were already treating Packers WR Davante Adams as the team’s No. 1 wideout last season, so the departure of Jordy Nelson will not represent much of a change in that regard, as Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com writes. But Green Bay has not (yet) signed a veteran wideout to replace Nelson, so Adams will need to take on a more active role in terms of leadership. The Packers drafted three receivers this year — one each in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds — and return 24-year-old Geronimo Allison as the presumed No. 3 WR on the depth chart, so Adams is suddenly the second-oldest player in the wide receiver room. He was not present for the start of OTAs, which caused some concern in light of his concussion history, but neither player nor team seem concerned about his availability. Head coach Mike McCarthy simply said Adams is “battling a couple things,” presumably minor injuries.
  • Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com says Quandre Diggs has a real chance to permanently supplant Tavon Wilson as the Lions‘ starting strong safety in 2018. Diggs, a former sixth-round selection, played well in that role last season, and Rothstein suggests he may even be the favorite to start at this point. Miles Killebrew, a former fourth-round choice, appears to be on the outside looking in and may need to continue to stand out on special teams to retain his roster spot.
  • James Conner, a feel-good story and 2017 third-round choice, is featuring prominently in Steelers‘ OTAs due to Le’Veon Bell‘s continued absence, as Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com writes. Conner showed flashes in his rookie campaign, which ended with a Week 15 MCL tear, but if he can cement himself as the team’s No. 2 back behind Bell this season — and he will need to improve in pass protection in order to do so — that could be the first step towards a starting job in 2019, depending on Bell’s contract situation.
  • John Ross is once again a full participant in the Bengals‘ OTAs, as Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer observes. Although Ross dropped a few passes, he also made some difficult grabs and is seeing a lot of passes come his way. Tyler Eifert, meanwhile, is a limited participant, but having both players involved at the beginning of full team work is a beautiful thing for Cincinnati fans.
  • Neil Stratton of InsideTheLeague.com (via Twitter) details a few more changes to the Browns‘ scouting department that were not covered several days ago.

AFC Rumors: Ross, Patriots, Broncos, Bolts

John Ross endured a disastrous rookie season after seeing his stock rise during 2017 Combine weekend. The Bengals‘ 2017 first-round pick did not catch a pass and ended the season on IR after suffering multiple injuries last year. Ross, though, is expected to be ready to run routes come spring despite undergoing shoulder surgery in December. He had both shoulders operated on last year and couldn’t get on the field until the second week of training camp following a spring shoulder surgery.

That was the problem,” Ross said, via Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “My body didn’t respond the way I wanted it to. Coming in late, I didn’t get to train. I was out of shape. That was pretty tough on my body. Rushing into it. Being out of shape. My body couldn’t take the physical aspects of the game we do every day. I thought I could. I think it kind of wore me out faster than I thought.

I really didn’t catch up until the end of the year when I started to have better practices. It all started to click together. It was already kind of too late. It was best to rest, get my body right.”

Ross has nowhere to go but up and figures to be a bigger part of the 2018 Cincinnati offense than he was last year.

Here’s the latest out of the AFC as new wideouts and cornerbacks aim to break Ross’ 4.22-second 40-yard dash record at the Combine.

  • Rumored to be a retirement candidate again, Dante Scarnecchia is back to work with the Patriots, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com reports. The longtime Pats offensive line coach, who retired after the 2013 season only to return in 2016, looks to be part of New England’s 2018 coaching staff. Now 70, Scarnecchia has been with the Patriots (aside from the 2014-15 seasons) since 1992. Excepting those two years after his initial retirement, Scarnecchia has been the Pats’ O-line coach since 1999.
  • The Broncos have two players who could warrant non-original-round tenders on the RFA market in Matt Paradis and Shaquil Barrett. Pro Football Focus’ top two RFAs, the starting center and part-time starting outside linebacker figure to receive second-round tenders, Mike Klis of 9News writes. Worth $2.9MM apiece, two second-round tenders would cost the Broncos nearly $6MM. That would further eat into Denver’s budget in an offseason in which the team is expected to pursue Kirk Cousins. The Broncos gave Brandon Marshall a second-round tender in 2016 and signed him to a long-term deal that summer and did the same with Brandon McManus. They could take the same route with Paradis, one of the league’s top centers.
  • Denver would like to have auxiliary wideout Bennie Fowler back next season, but Klis notes the team is expected to search for an upgrade at No. 3 receiver. The Broncos have struggled to replace the spot Wes Welker vacated three years ago, with now-UFA Cody Latimer failing to fill that role. Denver drafted Carlos Henderson in the third round of last year’s draft only to see him miss the whole season. The Broncos giving Fowler an original-round tender ($1.9MM) is in play, per Klis. Fowler (29 catches, 350 yards, three TDs) made just $615K last season. The Broncos would prefer to keep starting WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in the fold rather than jettison them to create cap space.
  • The Chargers are seeking a complementary back to go with Melvin Gordon, Eric Williams of ESPN.com writes. But with Austin Ekeler working as a pass-catching back, Williams notes the team would want said supporting-caster to be more of a between-the-tackles bruiser who would spell Gordon.

AFC Notes: Bengals, Ross, Texans, O’Brien

Before he landed on IR, the Bengals spoke with first-round pick John Ross about the possibility of moving to cornerback, Mike Florio of PFT hears. It’s not clear how serious the Bengals were about a position change or why they were thinking about it in the first place. One source speculated that it was a move to help solidify the team’s depth at cornerback and Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer hears the same thing. But, another suggested to Florio that the proposed switch had to do with Ross’ overall toughness.

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • Head coach Bill O’Brien said he wants to be back with the Texans next season. “I enjoy being the head coach of the Houston Texans,” O’Brien said (Twitter link via Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com). “I expect to be here, but those decisions are not made by me.” Since taking over in Houston in 2014, O’Brien’s teams have gone a combined 31-30, including three straight 9-7 seasons and two AFC South titles.
  • O’Brien said he expects T.J. Yates to start for the Texans on Sunday against the Jaguars (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com). Tom Savage was left shaking on the field after a big hit in this weekend’s loss to the Niners. He was later brought back on to the field for a series, raising questions about the league’s concussion protocol.
  • Browns head coach Hue Jackson said he doesn’t get the feeling at all that new GM John Dorsey wants to hire his own coach (Twitter link via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal). Although the team has pledged to bring Jackson back for the 2018 season, a report over the weekend indicated that Dorsey is not sold on him.
  • Head coach Sean McDermott says that Tyrod Taylor will be the Bills‘ starting quarterback this week, provided that his knee is healthy enough (Twitter link via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com). Meanwhile, backup Nathan Peterman is in the concussion protocol. The Bills finished out Sunday’s game with Joe Webb under center, so it will be at least a couple of days before they get some clarity on who their starting QB will be against Miami.