If you don’t know by now that John Ross is really fast, you’d be the only one.
The fifth-year wide receiver set a record by running a 4.22-second 40-yard dash at the 2017 NFL Combine, a tidbit that followed him through multiple stints on Injured Reserve and landed him a one-year contract with the New York Giants this March.
But to evolve as a pass-catcher, Ross knows that he needs to be more than just the speedy deep threat who occasionally pops up on highlight reels.
“I feel like every facet of my game is important because I have to continue to show why I should be in there for multiple reasons,” Ross said. I’ve always said this, I never want to be a one-trick pony. I don’t want to go in the game and the defense is like – I think I went in yesterday, and the defense was kind of waving back, like, ‘Get back.’ I kind of want to be more than that. It felt good to put us in a different position and help continue moving the ball in different ways, and not just all the way down the field.
“That’s kind of what I like to work on in the offseason. Trying to add different elements to my game more than just speed because that can easily be taken away with different coverages. You want to get better at some of those short-area yardage things.”
Still, Ross’s speed was the main talking point after the Giants’ 27-21 win against the New Orleans Saints this Sunday, and for good reason. He finished with three receptions for 77 yards in his first game with New York and first appearance since October 2020. The highlight was a bizarre 52-yard touchdown catch-turned-fumble recovery caught between two Saints defenders that put the Giants ahead 7-0 in the second quarter.
“I’m all about the ball, so I just felt that no matter what it was, whether I was down or not, I wanted to make sure that I ended up with the ball,” Ross said. “I wanted to leave no question, whether someone else tried to recover it or not, I wanted to make sure I got on it, no matter what it was. I thought it was a catch, but I just wanted to make sure I got up with the ball no matter what.”
In four years with the Cincinnati Bengals, Ross never lived up to his status as the ninth overall pick in the 2017 Draft. He missed 37 games with repeated knee and groin injuries before the Bengals declined his fifth-year option this offseason, and missed most of the Giants’ training camp.
Ironically, Ross got the chance to take the field Sunday in a starring role because of injuries to receivers Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton — an opportunity he’s not taking for granted.
“It’s very big, given the numbers that we have and the guys who went down, we needed a few people to step up,” he said. “I was thankful with the opportunity granted to be one of those guys that had to step up.”
Combined with a breakout game from rookie Kadarius Toney (six receptions, 78 yards) the Giants’ receivers brought a playmaking element on Sunday that is often missing from the team’s offense. Ross agreed that the pair’s speed forces defenses to focus more on guarding the deep ball.
“You can kind of see it, even early in the game. I think, there’s no secret that I’m fast, so I would expect when teams put out a scouting report, or whenever my name is called, the first thing they think of is speed. So, I expect to kind of get a softer coverage a lot of times and for guys to play deeper.”
“I think that’s something that’s hard to coach against. Once you utilize it, it’s something you have to really hone in on. I think what me and Kadarius can do opens up a lot of things.
On Sunday, it was the running game that opened up. Saquon Barkley finished with 52 rushing yards, 74 receiving yards and two touchdowns in his most impressive game since returning from an ACL tear.
“We try to get guys’ eyes turned and down the field,” Ross said. “The biggest thing is when you have someone as talented as 26 (Barkley) back there, you never know. You want to make sure you block as much as you can, as long as you can, because you never know where that ball is going to go when that ball touches his hand. It’s always critical for us to take pride in that because that ball can start left and end up right and you never know. We just want to make sure we try to take our man out as best as we can.”