Bengals training camp is one week away. I’ve been on the John Ross and Joe Mixon train for months. Here are my expectations for both players in 2017.
John Ross is exactly what the Bengals needed. He’s an extremely versatile deep threat, who runs good routes and can turn a three-yard pass into an 80-yard touchdown. He’s the fastest man in the history of the NFL Combine. What kind of impact will he have as a rookie?
Ross should have an impact right away. His speed should force defenses to know where he is at all times. I have a feeling there will be plenty of Bengals fans underwhelmed with Ross’ numbers this season. I don’t see him having more than 40 receptions or 1,000 receiving yards. He will make big plays, but adding him will open things up for Tyler Boyd and Brandon LaFell. Ross will get his touches. I think he ends up with 35-40 receptions and five touchdowns.
A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Boyd and LaFell could all finish with more targets and receptions. Ross will make big plays as a rookie, but the Bengals don't need him to be a star in 2017. Now, if Green or Eifert get injured, Ross will post better numbers. There will be a writer who writes a column bashing the Bengals for selecting Ross. It comes with being the ninth overall pick. Ross is going to be great, but his impact may not always show up in the box score this season.
I have higher expectations for Joe Mixon. The Bengals’ already have a game changer at wide receiver in Green. They need Mixon to be their playmaker at running back. I wouldn’t be shocked if Mixon rushes for 1,000 yards as a rookie. I believe he’s the most-talented running back the Bengals have had since Corey Dillon.
The first time I met Mixon, I looked at him and thought: “This kid is going to be a star.” He looks the part. He carries himself with a confidence that stars have. He has the size, speed and strength to be successful right away. He can catch out of the backfield. Mixon runs and catches the ball like Giovani Bernard, but he’s bigger than Jeremy Hill. Hill will still get some carries and Bernard will get touches when he returns from injury. Mixon should be in line for 15 touches per week to start the season and that number should grow if he has success.
Both Ross and Mixon give the Bengals something they didn’t have last season: an identity. Say what you want about the defensive struggles last year, but the offense needed an injection of talent. The Bengals went 6-9-1 last season. They didn’t score more than 20 points in any of their nine losses. This offense should average 30 points-per-game in 2017. When Ross could be your third, maybe fourth wide receiver, you know you’re in good shape. The offensive line is a big question mark. I will write more about them in the upcoming days.
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