With an offense lacking a wide receiver with a catch longer than 18 yards, the Bengals deactivated their fastest wideout when John Ross didn't dress for Sunday's game in Philadelphia.
Ross's surprising deactivation headlined an inactive list that included defensive tackle Geno Atkins (shoulder) along with what appeared to be coaches' decision for defensive tackle Andrew Brown and running back Trayveon Williams. Eagles five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was active despite missing most of the practice time last week.
Before Ross got hurt last year in the fourth game of the season, he had rung up touchdown catches of 66 and 55 yards for the longest catches by a Bengals wide receiver since A.J. Green's 70-yard touchdown catch in Tennessee on Nov. 12, 2017.
Ross, the Bengals' first-round pick in 2017 and ninth overall after he ran the fastest 40-yard dash in the history of the NFL scouting combine, has had a star-crossed career beset by injuries. It's his first healthy scratch since his rookie year, when head coach Marvin Lewis sat him for four games.
Last week head coach Zac Taylor talked about a receiver rotation after he raised eyebrows with the deactivation of wide receiver Auden Tate, the star of quarterback Joe Burrow's first training camp. Tate's agent questioned the move publicly and Taylor talked about he wanted to rotate his seven receivers. Even in that Cleveland game with Tate on the bench, Ross' snap counts dipped from 57 in the opener to 28 in that one.
The man making the start for Ross is a rookie that could have gone in the first round, but the Bengals were able to get Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins with the first pick at the top of the second. They're looking for Higgins to bring that 6-4, 215-pound national championship explosion and he does have that longest catch by a receiver this season. It was part of his first three NFL catches for 30 yards last week in Cleveland.
Also out were linebacker Markus Bailey and kicker Austin Seibert as the Bengals made only six players inactive with just 54 players on their active roster. With defensive tackle Khalil McKenzie promoted from the practice squad and the coaches sitting down Andrew Brown, that gave them three defensive tackles going into the game with a combined five NFL games. McKenzie, a converted guard returning to his college position he last played three years ago, makes his NFL debut two weeks after Bledsoe made his. That makes Freedom Akinmoladum, off a fourth-down goal-line stop in Cleveland, the veteran of the trio playing in his fourth game.