Dez Bryant has been a consistent topic of conversation for the Dallas Cowboys, a team that makes news regardless of whether or not it has a winning record. Ever since being selected by Jerry Jones late in the first round of the 2010 draft, and especially since Jones personally offered the jersey number of Cowboys wide receiver legend Michael Irvin, Bryant has been expected to blossom into one of the league’s greatest.
He’s got the size, he’s got the speed, and he’s got the pedigree—coming out of Oklahoma State during their recent resurgence. Now in his third season, Bryant looks to be finally proving himself as a core member of this Cowboys unit. The offense has been built specifically with him in mind, and he is particularly useful on a team with Miles Austin, who more often than not attracts more opposing coverage.
Bryant has 357 receiving yards in his last 4 games and has so far accumulated 735. One noticeable bruise on his stat line this season is his touchdowns, as he has only connected with Tony Romo for 4 touchdowns—two of those coming in the week 6 loss to Baltimore. Romo has had his fair share of problems this year, though, while Bryan had his best game last Sunday’s in which he caught for 145 yards and a touchdown in their win over Cleveland
This is the first season of Bryant’s young and troubled career in which he has had multiple 100-yard receiving games. He was drafted by Jones with all of the baggage considered. Jones reminisced about passing on Randy Moss with the 8th pick in the 1998 draft (the Cowboys selected DE Greg Ellis instead), and he has always admitted to being swayed by the media and regrets the decision. It was that memory that led him to lean in Bryant’s direction and after a slew of other teams in need passed on him Jones snatched him up with the 24th overallpick, gave him Irvin’s number (note: the Cowboys do not retire numbers), and sent him out onto the field to take over the world.
But, Bryant never has. He got 561 yards, 6 touchdowns, and a brush with the police in his first year. In his second year he almost broke the 1,000 echelon, caught 9 touchdowns, and looked to be coming into his own. Then, last July his mother called 911 on him for domestic abuse (he hit her with his baseball cap) and all of the sudden the media hurricane was once again descending upon Dallas for all the wrong reasons. But, to Bryant’s credit he has dealt with the charges, and though he is still facing prosecution from the Dallas district attorney even though his mother dropped the charges, Bryant has shut down his wild persona and has kept it all on the field.
Through 10 games Bryant has 735 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns. Statistically he’s not on the same pace he was last season but he is easily on pace for more receptions and should break the 1,000 mark for the first time in his career if he manages to avoid injury.
It’s easy to speculate about how “great” a Dallas wide receiver will be. Look no further than the weekly scrutiny on Tony Romo. Wearing that blue star on your helmet means something; Bryant wears that “something” blatantly on his uniform. After all, no one’s wearing Troy Aikman’s #8. You don’t see anyone out there in Emmitt Smith’s #22 trotting around the gridiron.
The question, of course, is can Bryant actually pull it off? His problems off the field have been here and there; in all honesty they haven’t been that big of a deal (until he hit his mother, of course). But, his problems on the field have come from his lack of discipline. Whether he runs the right route or goes 150% on a play and has to sit out a series of downs because of a leg problem, his discipline has been a problem. And it takes discipline to learn discipline.
Bryant has had his problems this year, on and off the field, but on the field they look to be turning around. He still has much to answer for in regards to his personal life, but he at least looks to be finally putting it together on Sunday.
Of course, today is Thursday. Today he plays on the biggest stage of the regular season. It’s Thanksgiving Day against the age-old rival Washington Redskins. Cowboys and Indians on Thanksgiving.
If he can pull it off on this stage, in those 1960 throwback uniforms, then Dez Bryant will have arrived.