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Under The Radar: Justyn Ross flashes, awaits more opportunity

Will the wide receiver get more opportunity Thursday night following his two catches last week?

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Minnesota Vikings Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs extended their winning streak to four games with a 27-20 victory over the Minnesota Vikings this past Sunday afternoon. The team’s success was once again underscored by a steadfast defense and flashes of impressive offensive prowess. This win brought the Chiefs’ season record to an impressive 4-1.

In every football game, there are unsung heroes whose contributions often go unnoticed, as they don’t always involve flashy plays but reveal a player’s steady improvement. This week, we shine the spotlight on a player who has captured the hearts of fans and carries high expectations – the former Clemson standout, Justyn Ross.

An under-the-radar performance

All eyes were on Ross from the moment the Chiefs signed him as an undrafted free agent following the 2022 NFL draft. In college, he was a star athlete who would have been a first-round pick had it not been for a rare neck issue, which led to the fusion of two neck vertebrae. Ross underwent surgery, forcing him to miss the 2020 season. He made a remarkable return to the field in 2021 but encountered another setback, suffering a stress fracture in his left foot, requiring surgery in November, further complicating his draft chances.

The injury concerns, especially the unprecedented neck issue, ultimately led to Ross going undrafted. All he wanted was an opportunity, which he clarified during the draft.

Kansas City stepped in and provided him with that chance by signing him after the draft. He went through training camp but had to be placed on injured reserve due to the need for corrective surgery on the same foot he had injured in college. This setback allowed Ross to fully heal while becoming well-versed in head coach Andy Reid’s offensive system.

This investment in time and recovery paid off, as Ross arrived at this year’s training camp in excellent health and fully prepared to compete. And compete he did, which prompted the Chiefs to retain seven wide receivers on the final roster.

Even though carrying so many receivers has limited Ross’s playing time this season, his role has grown as the season progressed. After receiving only two targets in the first four games, Ross was targeted four times against the Vikings, successfully catching two for 28 yards. While Ross did experience one drop on what should have been an easy catch, it’s encouraging to witness both an increase in his targets and his overall production.

The bottom line

If Ross and rookie wide receiver Rashee Rice continue to receive opportunities, it could significantly enhance a Chiefs passing game that has encountered its share of challenges in the first five games. Ross’s towering 6-foot-4 frame may transform into a dependable vertical target for star quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the foreseeable future.

Ross always maintained that he just needed a chance, and now he has it. Let’s eagerly anticipate seeing if he can continue to make the most of this opportunity, particularly this Thursday night — when the Chiefs face their division rival, the Denver Broncos.

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