The Cincinnati Bengals might have answered a lot of questions during the offseason.
They revamped the offensive line, experienced lots of turnover on the coaching staff and added some players who could give the defense a different look.
They also found out what a healthy John Ross looks like, at least in shorts and a helmet.
The true test of the his being “back” will come when the pads go on, of course, but there is reason for optimism at this point the 2017 top 10 pick will look like a top 10 pick in 2018.
1. Ross definitely has the right attitude.
At times last season the first-round pick out of Washington seemed frustrated. He was understandably down about his inability to contribute.
In contrast, he was upbeat when talking to reporters this spring.
“Sitting out so long last year and not being able to participate the way I wanted to, it just feel like a new year, a new person and kind of like the old me before I finished my last year of college,” he said Jun 14. "I’m starting to feel better every day and learning every day.”
2. He wants to be more than a speed merchant.
After breaking the NFL combine record for fastest 40-yard dash time, Ross became known first and foremost as a guy who can pick ‘em up and put ‘em down.
He showed in minicamp he can do more than take the top off the defense, catching short passes and streaking all across the field.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “Last week I made a play on the defense and the offense is jumping up and down going crazy. It’s not just running by somebody and people saying, ‘He can run.’ That gets pretty old pretty quick, so just trying to one of those spark plugs for the offense to get ‘em going and getting everybody to go crazy and seeing everybody have a good time.”
3. Offensive changes should help him.
When Ross was drafted, his impact was anticipated in the simplest of ways: Two deep threats are better than one, so having Ross line up on the opposite side from A.J. Green could really put defenses who want to provide coverage help to Green’s side a dilemma.
Bill Lazor’s overhauled offense should utilize Ross in multiple ways, though, and his intent to turn up the tempo will create more opportunities for everyone because the Bengals are likely to run more plays.
4. He has the confidence of his coach.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis insisted in March he liked John Ross as an all-around football player despite his “redshirt year.”
“I think his upper body looks way different,” Lewis said. “I think he’s maturing as a man, and he’s developing as a man physically.
“Last year he didn’t have any offseason of weight training whatsoever or virtually nothing or anything of substance so this was the first time over the last six weeks that he’s had an opportunity to do those kind of things.”
“John grew up in Long Beach, Calif., so I have no question about his confidence,” Lewis said. “I know where he went to school, I know where he grew up and I know the block he lived on. I don’t worry about John and his confidence. You have to be confident just to walk every day.”
5. Ross always felt Lewis had his back, anyway.
“I just feel like a lot of people see it like last year he was a villain in my story, and I don’t think that was the case, but it’s good,” Ross said to hear Lewis praising him in the press.
“When you do good things, people notice and they say good things about you. I think it’s a testament to how hard I’ve worked in this offseason so basically I’ve just got to continue to do that, not so much to hear it but to help.”