Bengals eager to see rookie John Ross show his speed in preseason debut

Cincinnati Bengals rookie running back Joe Mixon has spent training camp proving what he can do.

It's the other touted rookie who still remains a mystery.

Bengals players are as eager as everyone else to see teammate John Ross get some real playing time. Ross, the ninth overall pick in the draft, has yet to take a preseason snap while recovering from shoulder surgery.

He is back at practice now, but hasn't taken that next step forward. With only two games left, the clock is ticking for Ross to get any preseason action. If it's going to happen, the third game against the Redskins, when the starters see the most playing time, seems the most logical bet.

"I do, yeah," Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton said with a smile when asked if he wanted to see Ross play. "I think this will be a chance for people to see him for the first time and for him to get some first game action, which will be good for him."

The Bengals badly needed some speed among their wide receivers last season, and Ross has the ability to stretch the field as one of the fastest players in the NFL.

"He's going to bring something different," said Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. "He's pretty much the only thing that we're missing, someone who can stretch the other side of the field, because when you look at our guys they're all kind of similar. When you look at him there's a difference and the difference is his speed. I look at that guy (as if) he's going to be a big major key."

Here are some other players to watch when the Bengals travel to play the Redskins at 4:30 p.m. Sunday:

Chris Smith

Bengals defensive coordinator told the defensive end last week that he was going to get 'thrown in with the big boys.' Smith held his own when getting some snaps against the Chiefs' first-string offensive linemen.

Expect more of that this week as Smith makes his final push for a roster spot. It would be surprising if Smith doesn't make the 53-man roster. He's been one of the bright stars of training camp ever since the Bengals sent a conditional draft pick to the Jaguars for him. However, defensive line is one of the deepest positions on the team and there are going to be some hard choices to make.

Dre Kirkpatrick and Giovani Bernard

Kirkpatrick said he's been ready to get cranked back up after the team held him out of the first two preseason games as a precaution. Kirkpatrick has been nursing a fractured hand all summer, although he's been able to practice as normal. Though Kirkpatrick doesn’t necessarily need to play in the preseason, he said he would like to get back out there to shake off the rust.

Bernard is another player who might make his debut on Sunday. He spent the offseason recovering from a torn ACL but was able to practice again on Day 1. He has yet to play in a preseason game because the team has cautiously brought him along. That's been good for Mixon, who has gotten to see significant playing time with Bernard out. But with the starters unlikely to play in the final preseason game, it would be surprising if Bernard didn't at least see a few snaps on Sunday.

Mason Schreck

Will the seventh-round pick make the team? This is a tricky one to predict. The tight end would have had a hard time with Tyler Eifert, C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Kroft ahead of him, but a window was opened when Uzomah badly sprained his ankle. A good showing by Schreck against the Redskins could certainly help, but if Uzomah is able to come back in the next few weeks, then a potential practice squad spot might make more sense for Schreck. A lot could ride on Sunday's game.

Clayton Fejedelem and Derron Smith

Safety has become the thinnest position on the team after injuries to Shawn Williams and George Iloka depleted the group. Iloka is on the mend after a knee injury, but Williams' elbow is now in a cast after he left on a cart against the Chiefs. With Williams sidelined for the foreseeable future, Smith and Fejedelem are the next men up. It'll be important for one or both to have a good showing, as one of them will likely be starting Week 1.