Bengals' first-round pick John Ross was considered at CB due to injuries

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis sounded like he was joking last Wednesday when he said No. 9 overall pick John Ross’ shot to get some playing time might be at cornerback instead of wide receiver.

But he actually wasn't joking at all.

"“I think he’ll have an opportunity. It might be at cornerback," Lewis said. "He’s done it, he’s played it (laughs). That was the first video I ever saw of John Ross, was him playing cornerback. But yes, this is a good opportunity for John to possibly be suited up this week."

Ross was one of a few options the Bengals considered to play cornerback due to a severely depleted secondary. On the day Lewis made his statement, three cornerbacks -- Dre Kirkpatrick, Adam Jones and Darqueze Dennard -- didn't practice with injuries. Safeties Shawn Williams and Brandon Wilson were also held out of practice. The Bengals were also waiting on a decision about George Iloka's pending suspension.

If all of those players had ended up unavailable, the Bengals would likely had to move cornerback Josh Shaw to safety. That would have left only William Jackson III and the little-used KeiVarae Russell at cornerback.

Ross landed on injured reserve that very day due to a lingering shoulder problem, so the idea never even came to light. Jones ended up on injured reserve and Dennard was able to play. Kirkpatrick and Williams sat out, while Tony McRae was promoted from the practice squad.

But defensive coordinator Paul Guenther had considered the possibility. Ross was one of several candidates to line up at emergency cornerback if needed. McRae, who only took five snaps on defense, likely played the role that Ross would have played.

"At the beginning of the week we only had a certain amount of DBs we were going to have available so we tried to scour the roster and see if guys may have played DB in college," Guenther said. "John was one of them. We had a couple other guys we talked about taking reps at safety just in case of in an emergency situation. You have to have your bases covered."

Although the idea of a player drafted in the top 10 as a receiver playing cornerback might seem odd, Ross actually has experience at the position. He started four games at cornerback as a college sophomore in 2014, playing both nickel and outside corner, and even had an interception.

"I had a nice corner blitz up for him," Guenther joked.