Bengals wide receiver John Ross hasn’t played more than six snaps in any game for the Bengals this season. His head coach, Marvin Lewis, may have given us an idea of the reason behind that when he called Ross out for quitting on a play in Week 10 against the Titans.
“He let his teammates down. He let me down. He let Andy [Dalton] down," Lewis said.
The Bengals had a third-and-5 on their own 36 less than a minute into the second quarter. Dalton fired one deep to Ross, but Ross slowed up on his route. He didn’t expect Dalton to throw him the ball even though he’s the fastest player in the NFL and the Titans had him in single coverage. The pass went incomplete, and the Bengals had to punt.
“Maybe that ball is not supposed to go there in that coverage, but if you do it right and run like you can run that ball can go there and it can be a big play for us,” Lewis said. “The receiver can’t dictate where the ball goes. The quarterback has to make the read and do what he does and throw the ball based on the coverage and his progression.
“In that case, he chose John. Made a nice throw and put the ball where it needed to be and it ended up from you to me away. Had he been running, likely he catches it.”
Ross agreed with his coach’s assessment.
“It’s like you being a kid and you go the whole year being good and you mess up that one time and now you get nothing for Christmas,” Ross said, via Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
It’s not the first time Lewis openly criticized one of his players this week. On Monday, he publicly questioned Jeremy Hill’s decision to undergo season-ending ankle surgery. He also sided with officials who ejected Vontaze Burfict from Sunday’s game.
Lewis made his expectations for Ross clear.
“John made a play last week that we weren’t very thrilled with,” he said. “He’s got to keep progressing.”
Injuries have slowed down Ross’ development in his rookie season. He’s only made it into three games for the Bengals this year. He was dealing with a shoulder injury when he was drafted by the Bengals, and he suffered a knee injury in the preseason and again in Week 2 against the Texans. Now he’s healthy, but plays like this aren’t likely to convince Lewis to expand his role in the offense.
The Bengals lost to the Titans 24-20. They needed Ross to catch that ball and use his speed to get into the end zone.
“I would hope it would be a touchdown,” Lewis said. “But that’s the margin of error we are right now. We’re a little thin on that.”
The Bengals are 3-6 after the loss to the Titans. The margin of error for the Bengals, and for Ross, is continuing to shrink.