EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – John Ross introduced himself to Giants fans by making one of the biggest plays of the young season. Now he hopes to contribute many more.
The first time the ridiculously fast receiver was targeted in his Giants debut, he sprinted down the seam and caught a 52-yard touchdown pass from Daniel Jones. Though he fumbled the ball and recovered it in the end zone, Ross was still credited with a touchdown reception.
"We kind of got what we were looking for," Ross said. "D.J. put a great ball out there, and I just have to go get it. I thought that was pretty much it. It was a great call by the coaches, and I just wanted to make a play."
Ross demonstrated a different skillset when he caught two passes for 25 yards on the series in overtime that ended with Saquon Barkley's six-yard touchdown run and a 27-21 victory against the New Orleans Saints in the Caesars Superdome. The Giants trailed in the fourth quarter by 11 points.
"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 think I went in yesterday, and the defense was kind of waving back, like 'get back'. I want to be more than that, so for me to go out there and make those two plays, it felt good. It felt good to put us in a different position and help continue moving the ball in different ways, and not just always down the field."
With Ross and first-round draft choice Kadarius Toney, the Giants' wide receiver group has sharply upgraded its speed. Ross didn't try to fool the Saints defensive backs. He simply blew past them.
"There's nothing to hide, that dude is fast," coach Joe Judge said after the game.
The proof is in the numbers. In 2017, Ross set an NFL Scouting Combine record by running the 40-yard dash in 4.22 seconds.
Ross was asked if defenses must play him differently because he is so fast.
"I believe so," he said. "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."
Those two wideouts, plus Kenny Golladay, combined to catch 15 passes for 271 yards yesterday. Their contributions were particularly vital because leading receiver Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton both missed the game with hamstring injuries.
"It's very big, given the numbers that we have and the guys who went down," Ross said. "We needed a few people to step up, and I was thankful for the opportunity to be one of those guys that had to step up."
"He obviously executed for us in some key positions and made some big catches," Judge said. "The touchdown catch, that's something we talk about all the time, playing through the possession and not just the whistle. He did not hesitate on if it was a touchdown or not, he hopped on the ball right away. The ruling on that play was a catch, fumble and immediate recovery for a touchdown. Had he not played that situation through right there, that could have been a big play going the other way."
Ross has always had tantalizing talent but hasn't always been able to stay on the field. The Cincinnati Bengals selected him ninth overall out of the University of Washington in the 2017 NFL Draft. In four years in Ohio, he played in only 27 games, including just three last year, largely due to a succession of injuries. Ross averaged 14.4 yards on 51 receptions and scored 10 touchdowns before joining the Giants as a free agent in March.
But the injury bug again found Ross, who missed much of training camp and the season's first three games with a strained hamstring. If he can stay on the field, Ross can be a productive player who will thrill Giants fans.
"I think there's no secret that I'm fast," Ross said. "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."
If they do, Ross will be prepared to take advantage.
"That's kind of what I like to work on in the offseason," he said. "I'm 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."
Check out the best photos from the New York Giants' Week 4 contest against the New Orleans Saints.
*In addition to the three receivers mentioned above, Barkley and tight end Evan Engram combined for 10 receptions for 101 yards in New Orleans. The Giants hope to add Shepard and Slayton soon return to the field (perhaps Sunday in Dallas). Is it possible Jones will have too many targets to choose from?
"I don't know if it would be the case of having 'too many guys' to throw the ball to," Judge said. "I'd say that Slayton and Shep are both working hard. We were encouraged last week with the progress they made. I think we'll know a little bit more in a couple of days in terms of what they look like going into this weekend. I know they're pushing hard to go ahead and get back out there, and we'll see the rest of the week, what that looks like.
"In terms of having all those guys available at the game when they're all up and healthy, to me, it's you want to have as many good players at the game as possible. I think all those guys are very capable of making plays. Whoever the open player is, we want to get the ball to and have them make a play. Very pleased with the way those guys are coming along as a unit and the improvements they're making and the production they're having."
*The Giants used their fourth starting offensive line combination in as many games, one that included Matt Skura at left guard in his team debut. Jones threw 40 passes and was not sacked once.
"The way those guys are working and the way the coaches are working with those guys to get them prepared, it was really just putting them in position to go out there and be successful," Judge said. "These guys work really well in the meetings in terms of going through the install, reviewing opponent tape, talking continuously throughout it and making sure we're on the same page from a communication standpoint. At practice, we get great work against our defensive front – whether it's simulating the opponents' rushes or just going competitive good versus good work. So, we go into every game very well prepared from that standpoint there.
"Specifically about Matt, I saw a guy jump in there and went out there, competed and made a lot of good plays for us. I think all positions on the team, all coaches, there's a lot of things we've got to clean up and fix to keep moving forward, but I was very pleased with how Matt jumped in there. I was very pleased with the offensive line jumping in there. I thought they did a good job yesterday, and they gave us room for some runs, and they gave Daniel a lot of time to throw. That was a productive day against a very good defense."