The New York Giants added plenty of weapons to Daniel Jones and Jason Garrett’s arsenal after the 2020 season. However, it was more than evident that the offense lacked explosiveness, a big-play threat, a truly contested-catch receiver, and a premier Y type of tight end.
Dave Gettleman and company acknowledged the lack of desired personnel and recognized that they had the 31st ranked offense in terms of yards, and points, per game.
Gettleman decided to bring in the true contested-catch receiver in Kenny Golladay, the Y-tight end in Kyle Rudolph, the big-play threat in first-round selection Kadarius Toney, and an explosive vertical option in John Ross III, former top-10 selection of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Ross was a very injured player throughout his college career at Washington, which bleed into his professional career. Ross has had chronic knee and shoulder injuries, as well as a couple of groin strains in his past.
He tore his right meniscus twice and his right ACL once in college. Then, once he got to the NFL, he further injured his right shoulder (which existed from college) in 2017.
He sprained the A/C joint in that same shoulder in 2019 as well. His 2018 season was also marred by groin strains that nagged him throughout the season.
He ended up losing favor with the Bengals coaching staff in 2020, and he saw the field once outside of the first two weeks of the season, which wasn’t due to injury, albeit missing training camp with COVID-19 certainly didn’t help either. It was quite a fall from grace for the record-holding 4.22 40-yard-dash runner at the NFL Combine.
Throughout his career, Ross had 119 targets and 51 catches for 733 yards and ten touchdowns. Disappointing is an understatement for the ninth pick in 2017, especially when you look at the 10th, 11th, and 12th picks of that draft (Patrick Mahomes, Marshon Lattimore, and Deshaun Watson, respectively).
Possessing raw speed can only get a player so far in the NFL. There are many nuances to running routes, and physicality is imperative at the catch point for even smaller players--getting off the line isn’t easy when being jammed.
Speedy receivers can easily create separation with their athleticism, yet there’s more to playing receiver than just speed. So let’s dive into this edition of the Good, the Great, and the Ugly to see if John Ross III can impact this roster, among all of the other additions to his position.
The Good: Deceptive Red Zone Threat
Here are all of Ross’ touchdowns; much to my surprise, the majority of them, six, were used in the red zone and near the goal line.
Through the clips that fall into that category, Ross shows the ability to work through traffic, find voids in zone, and make high leverage catches with his hands - something he certainly struggles with in the open field.
In the third clip, against the Saints, watch how the corner attempts to jam and hinder Ross from gaining inside access, yet the receiver is able to dip the outside shoulder and explode inside on the “deep” cross. The acceleration and ability to evade at the line of scrimmage on that specific play are impressive from Ross.
Two plays later, against the Browns, Ross is motioned from the field to the boundary side--something we hope to see a bit more from Jason Garrett.
At the snap, Ross quickly runs a spot route, finds a soft spot in coverage, and presents an easy target for the quarterback. It’s also a good route concept with the vertical to clear, allowing Ross to slip underneath.
At the 50 second mark, Ross and a fellow Bengals’ wide receiver run a simple slant/flat concept, a Jason Garrett staple. Ross doesn’t have the leverage against the corner, who does a good job covering Ross.
However, John Ross III breaks the slant off once realizing the positioning and turns his route to the back pylon, where he is wide open for a touchdown.
I can’t say for certain if this was by design or not, but it happened swiftly and showed his unique movement skills in tight quarters--he’s not only a vertical option with deep speed.
Speaking of his athletic ability allowing him to succeed in the red zone, let's also look at him in open space. Ross is the No. 2 receiver in the 3x1 set. Just watch how insanely sudden he is with his movements.
Two Seattle Seahawk defenders have him teed up, and he makes them both look silly. Ross has many issues that prevented him from being the star the Bengals thought he would develop into, but there’s no denying his movement ability and deep speed.
MORE "GOOD, GREAT & UGLY" BREAKDOWNS
WR Kelvin Benjamin | RB Devontae Booker | RB Corey Clement | OLB Lorenzo Carter | CB Isaac Yiadom | TE Kaden Smith | WR Kenny Golladay | TE Levine Toilolo | Edge Ifeadi Odenigbo | DT Danny Shelton | OL Zach Fulton | CB Adoree' Jackson | TE Evan Engram | S Jabrill Peppers | S Xavier McKinney | ILB Reggie Ragland
The Great: Big Play Ability
Here’s a touchdown Ross scored against the 49ers. He’s the No. 1 receiver at the top of the screen, and he runs a good route here: angles his stem outside, accelerates to get up on the corner, gets the corner’s hips flipped, then hits the dig route, and accelerates upfield.
Ross completely manipulates the corner and turns him around while having the athletic ability to take the ball to the house. He’s got a lot of big play-ability.
This was the best game of Ross’ career: 7 catches for 158 yards and a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks in week one of the 2019 season.
He was a significant waiver wire pickup in fantasy football after this week and the subsequent week against the 49ers (the touchdown you see above). Ross is the No. 1 receiver (outside) at the top of your screen, and he runs a slight out-and-up.
The safety’s angle is atrocious, to be frank, but Ross still separates from the corner who may have expected some over-the-top help. The ball is underthrown, but Ross jumps up and high points the ball right behind the safety, who executed a terrible jump ball situation as well. Ross secures the catch and runs it into the end-zone.
This isn’t a “huge” play from Ross, but a very nice out route. Ross doesn’t seem inept in the art of running routes (Ross is at the bottom of the screen).
He faces a lot of off coverage due to his speed, and he does a good job angling his body up his stems to keep defenders guessing on his breaks and his overall intentions. In addition, Ross does a good job varying his tempo; one can see how he’s going about half speed until he gets to the 36-yard-line, then he explodes, putting the cornerback in fright.
The first part of his stem is slightly angled outside, and then he breaks it back upfield with speed to get the cornerback to restrict space on the route--but it’s a ruse!
Ross wanted the corner to go inside because he’s breaking the route down and going back outside. Again, this is subtle yet very good by Ross.
As stated earlier, Jason Garrett likes to run slant/flat combinations. Here, Ross is the No. 2 receiver in the 3x1 set at the top of the screen. Ross uses a nice delayed-release, presses the outside shoulder of the corner, and breaks back inside against man coverage.
The cornerback misses his attempt at making contact, and Ross makes the safety miss while taking the pass 34 yards. A nice quick slant success for John Ross.
It’s not easy to win at the line of scrimmage and establish oneself inside on a delayed release as the number two receiver in a 3x1 set.
Ross has the ability, but availability has been a huge question, and I don’t doubt that he may have a role on this team.
I wouldn’t say it’s a certainty that he’ll make the roster, but he’s not a terrible football player--just not someone who should have been selected in the first round. Injuries haven’t been his only issue, unfortunately. Ross has struggled with drops as well.
The Ugly: Drops
Ross has 14 career drops on 119 targets which is a drop percentage of 21.5%. This is something that won’t be tolerated in a crowded wide receiver room.
One issue, other than concentration, is his small (8¾”) hands, his hand size being in the ninth percentile for hand size at the wide receiver position. In the winds of MetLife Stadium, this could prove to be a problem.
This play is very indicative of Ross’s issues with not only drops but with balance as well. Sometimes Ross is just too fast for his own good, and he’ll slip a bit coming in and out of his breaks. On this play, he slips, and he can’t secure the football.
I’m not going to litter this article with all of Ross’ drops, but they’re frustrating to watch. He didn’t exactly have the best quarterback situation through his Bengals career. Still, Andy Dalton is more than capable of delivering a good catchable ball, and many of Ross’ errors were self-inflicted.
The Bengals offense specifically designed plays to get Ross into space so he can showcase his talents. But even on simple plays, drops still plagued the young receiver.
Some drops, like this one, look like a poor Madden glitch where the receiver just swats at the ball and looks as if he has no clue on how to secure an NFL pass. These issues have to be cleaned up if Ross will earn snaps on this offense that loved to run 12- and 13-personnel in 2020.
Now that Garrett has more receivers to work with, I hope to see more 11-personnel. Still, even then, Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, and Kadarius Toney would be used as the three receivers over Ross unless they want his speed for something specific.
Ross is going to be in a camp battle with Dante Pettis. It’s no certainty that either 100% makes the roster, but I don’t know if there will be room for both, especially if the Giants want to retain C.J. Board as a gunner.
The value of Ross on this cheap one-year, $2.5 million deal is real, but he has to be able to stay healthy through training camp and show more secure hands to earn a roster spot on this team.
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