Dallas Cowboys: Dez Bryant

Cowboys preview: Make-or-break stretch

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
The end of the season has not been kind to the Dallas Cowboys in recent years. It's not been just a Jason Garrett problem, but the Cowboys lost three of their last four in 2013, their final two in 2012 and four of their last five in 2011 to finish 8-8 all three years. This year's late-season schedule is difficult -- five of the last seven away from home -- but the pivotal stretch will be early in the year to make sure the end of the year is relevant. Six of the Cowboys' first nine games are at AT&T Stadium, which has not provided the greatest of home-field advantages since opening. The Cowboys have a three-game homestand from Oct. 19-Nov. 2 against three NFC teams that they almost have to sweep to stay in contention in the division or help in the wild-card standings.

Complete Cowboys season preview.
Dez Bryant and offensive line coach Bill Callahan were engrossed in a fascinating discussion after practice ended Saturday afternoon about the technique Jerry Rice used to catch the ball.

They were talking hand placement.

Bryant, like most receivers, makes a “W” shape with his hands with his thumbs touching when he catches the ball. Callahan said Rice used to hold one hand under the other when he caught the ball.

Rice used that technique because it gave him more margin for error and reduced his drops because he always had one hand under the ball. After discussing the nuances of the technique, Bryant caught passes for several minutes using the new technique.

Callahan coached Rice when the Hall of Fame receiver played for the Oakland Raiders.

“I like it,” Bryant told the coach. “I see why it works. I’m going to keep working on it.”
OXNARD, Calif. -- Dez Bryant caught 11 balls out of the slot last season, which is nine more than he caught in 2012.

The Cowboys want him to catch a lot more from the slot this season.

 The Cowboys can finally expand Bryant's package of plays because they can move him around the formation and put him in the slot, where he doesn't have to deal with bump-and-run coverage.

Jason Garrett said the Cowboys would've liked to have done it in other years, but Bryant wasn't ready. His grasp of all the different positions wasn't good enough.

Now, it is.

There's a significant difference between playing outside receiver and one who is in the slot.

"He's grown as an inside receiver," Garrett said. "The trait and the qualities are different. I've been around a lot of outside receivers who looked like a fish out of water when they moved inside.

"If you picture an X receiver in right formation, there's no one outside of you. You're typically working against a corner by yourself or there's a safety rotating over the top. When you're inside, you have people inside of you and outside of you. You have a linebacker walked out, you have a safety coming down, and you have to have a feel for how to run the routes because there's a lot going on.

"It has a lot to do with your feel as an athlete -- your vision, your instincts and your experience. You have to get in there and do it."

Dez Bryant heaps praise on young players

October, 14, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- Sunday wasn’t a flashy game for Dez Bryant or the offense. Bryant, who had six touchdowns in the previous four games, didn’t get in the end zone in a 31-16 win over the Redskins.

And Bryant wasn’t worried about it, either. He spent most of his brief session with the media on Monday extolling others on his team and preaching the importance of the right “mindset.” And he was proud of the fact that in four trips inside the red zone, the offense scored three touchdowns.

Bryant was most pleased about how so many players down on the depth chart competed and stepped up as injuries mounted.

“We have a bunch of guys waiting on an opportunity,” Bryant said. “I think every guy who has the opportunity, not one guy or coach said, ‘He can’t do the job.’

“As you can see, each guy was waiting on their opportunity and when their number was called, they went in there and did it.”

Bryant heaped praise on Dwayne Harris, who shined in special teams, saying he’s got the confidence to keep it going. He was happy about Joseph Randle’s play. And he was impressed with Kyle Wilber, who filled in (along with Caesar Rayford) after DeMarcus Ware left the game in the second quarter with a strained thigh muscle.

“What Wilber did last night, the whole team expects him to do the same thing next week,” Bryant said. “We have high standards as a team and that’s the only way you can win in this league. You have to have high standards.”

That includes the expectation level away from AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys have one home game between now and Thanksgiving. The journey away from Arlington begins Sunday in Philadelphia against an Eagles team that sits on top of the NFC East with Dallas at 3-3.

“Like each and every week, it’s going to be a fight. It’s going to be a battle,” Bryant said. “You have to have a mindset that you’re going there to get what you want. You have to go in with the right attitude, the right mindset. The main thing is preparation. It starts on Monday and evaluating and getting ready for Wednesday and practice throughout the week.”

Dez Bryant dealing with a jammed thumb

August, 19, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- There was something noticeable on Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant's right hand Monday afternoon: a heavy wrap over his thumb.

Bryant jammed the thumb during training camp practices and might have nicked it a little during Monday's practice at Valley Ranch.

Nate Newton joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett live in studio for 30 minutes of Cowboys reaction, analysis and real talk.

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Team officials don't believe the jammed thumb is serious, and Bryant laughed when asked about it.

"The thumb is great," he said.

Bryant played through a fractured index finger in the last month of the 2012 season before undergoing offseason surgery. He also suffered back spasms in the regular-season finale at Washington. The pain was so bad Bryant needed two trainers to get him to the shower area, and he used a wheelchair to get to the team bus.

Overall, Bryant said he's not concerned about the Cowboys' first-team offense, which has failed to score a touchdown in five possessions over two preseason games. The Cowboys scored just three points with Romo as the quarterback and had another field goal attempt blocked.

"I don't think there's a big issue with us," Bryant said. "We go out and try to execute these plays the best way we possibly can when we go out to practice. I don't think it's no concern. Nobody is worried [about] not finding the end zone."

Sources: Dez Bryant could need surgery

December, 10, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant is looking at possible surgery on his left index finger and is meeting with a hand specialist today, according to sources.

Coop and Nate discuss the Cowboys' hard-fought win over the Bengals.

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If Bryant needs surgery, he will miss the rest of the season.

Bryant was injured in the fourth quarter of Sunday's win at Cincinnati, but was able to return and catch a 27-yard touchdown to spark the Cowboys' rally. Coach Jason Garrett is set to address the media at 5:15 p.m. ET.

After the game Bryant said he suffered a sprain and would be OK. Should surgery be required, it would be the second time in Bryant's three years he would end the year on injured reserve. He missed the final four games of the 2010 season with a broken ankle.

Read the full story here.

Dez Bryant should have stayed home

November, 3, 2012
ATLANTA -- In theory, Dez Bryant's late-night trip to a Dallas nightclub shouldn't be a big deal.

But it is.

It's not because Bryant did something wrong at the club -- he didn't -- but he was out late, with permission from adviser David Wells and team officials, to have a little fun before his birthday.

This presents a problem because of Bryant's off-field behavior. He still has a case pending for domestic violence involving his mother. He didn't practice all week with a sore hip and fell down during a Friday morning walkthrough. Bryant is sore as a result of his crashing to the ground after almost making a spectacular catch in last week's loss to the New York Giants.

Bryant is the most talented wide receiver on the Cowboys, but the most troubled. Friday night should have been a night at home. Yes, his birthday is Nov. 4 and this was a little gift for him to celebrate, but he needed to stay home.

It's all about perception. Ask Tony Romo.

During the bye week of the 2007 playoffs, Romo and two teammates ventured down to Mexico to relax. Some fans and media members said it was the wrong thing to do. The Cowboys lost to the Giants in the divisional round of the playoffs, and some fans have never forgiven Romo for his trip.

The trip didn't cost the Cowboys the game. If the Cowboys had won, however, maybe things would be different regarding that trip. But his team lost, and many felt the quarterback needed to set the tone for the franchise. Stay home and relax.

A few years later, former Cowboys Ken Hamlin, Keith Davis and Tank Johnson took a trip to South Texas for a Halloween party 48 hours before a game at New York.

The trio got home in time, but that weekend the Cowboys lost.

They should have stayed home.

I'm not against players going out; that's their right. You can't ask 20-something-year-old players to stay home every weekend. But Bryant should have stayed home Friday night.

If Bryant struggles Sunday night at Atlanta, he opens himself up to being criticized for hanging out late when he has a bad hip.

Bryant is a good player. He plays hard and cares deeply about his team.

But going out late Friday night wasn't the right thing to do.

Dez Bryant cancels himself out

October, 29, 2012
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Romocoaster might be the featured attraction, but the Dez Bryant Bandwagon is the wildest, craziest ride at Jerry Jones' traveling carnival.

Only the truly brave -- or totally insane -- are still on it, crash helmets strapped on and seat belts buckled tight.

The ride was as exhilarating and exasperating as ever Sunday. The afternoon essentially summed up the career of the Dallas Cowboys' high-drama receiver so far.

Bryant alternated between awful and amazing. He deserved arguably the biggest share of the blame for the Cowboys being buried by 23 points after 17 minutes. Then he played a huge role in what could have been the Cowboys' biggest comeback, finishing with a career-high 110 yards on five catches.

And Bryant almost had his fingerprints all over the moment that might have catapulted the Cowboys to the kind of season they dream about -- if only his fingertip didn't come out of bounds.

The instant replay, however, was clear. Bryant's glove barely touched that white end line a split second before his backside crashed into the blue turf. The jaw-dropping display of athleticism, that leaping catch between New York Giants defenders in the end zone with seconds remaining, was simply a spectacular incompletion.

Who cares about the what-ifs? The Cowboys didn't win, their slim division-title hopes near death after the 29-24 loss to their NFC East rivals.

Read more here.

Morris Claiborne gets away with contact

October, 21, 2012
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Cowboys first-round pick, Morris Claiborne picked up his first interception of the season and made his first big late-game play in the victory over Carolina.

Faced with a fourth-and-1 from its own 40, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton found Louis Murphy for what could have been first down completion, but Claiborne bumped into the receiver as he attempted to make the catch and the ball fell incomplete with 2:08 to play.

The crowd roared its disapproval as did Murphy.

"It's one of those things," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "You'd like to get the call. We didn't get the call. You'd like to see him hold onto the ball but there was a reason why."

So did Claiborne get away with something?

"We were just man-to-man and the guy ran a quick stop route and I was blessed enough to come down and break it up," he said. "They say I interfered with him, but I feel like I had good coverage."

Cowboys need Dez Bryant at Carolina

October, 20, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- The noise surrounding Dez Bryant and his dropped two-point conversion pass at Baltimore last week and his four overall drops in the 2012 season has to be muted for a moment.

Drew Pearson diagnoses Dez Bryant's lingering groin injury and conveys the must-win nature of this Sunday's game.

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Over the last two weeks, Bryant has been the Cowboys' best receiver. Yes, the best receiver despite the miscues. But Bryant is questionable for Sunday's game at Carolina after a groin strain forced him to miss Friday's practice at Valley Ranch.

The Cowboys need Bryant for Sunday's game. If Bryant isn't available, the chances of Kevin Ogletree duplicating what he did in the season opener at the New York Giants (eight catches for 114 yards with two touchdowns) are low.

Ogletree has just nine catches since the season opener. Miles Austin is also available to possibly save the day, but he's been inconsistent. And while he does have a 100 yard game (107 on five catches Sept. 23 against Tampa Bay), Austin hasn't dominated any games.

At the start of the season, I said Austin was the Cowboys' best receiver and I still believe that, but over the last two games, Bryant has been the hottest.

Bryant has 21 catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns the last two games. The Cowboys can't afford to miss Bryant because he's their most physical and productive receiver.

Quarterback Tony Romo trusts Bryant, not more than Jason Witten or Austin, but he's targeted Bryant 48 times for a 70.8 percent completion rate, making Bryant a go-to receiver.

"He’s getting better and better," Romo said. "I said this a while ago, he just continues to grow each year, each week and each month through the experiences of the game and things of that nature. He continues to become a better receiver, and he’s continuing to work at it really hard and he’s continuing to get better."

Sunday afternoon, if the Cowboys get outside linebacker Anthony Spencer back from a pectoral muscle strain, it will be a boost to the defense. But if Bryant isn't around, things will get a little tricky for the Cowboys offense.
IRVING -- There was quite a bit of movement in the rankings this week because of a combination of the offensive progress against Baltimore and some of the Cowboys’ best players finally got healthy and playing to their talent.

Each week, during the season, I rank my top 10 players on the roster based on their performances this season.

1. Sean Lee: The Cowboys’ most consistent player had a quiet game with only five tackles, though he still tied for the team lead, and little impact after the first quarter.
Last Week: 1

2. DeMarcus Ware: He delivered a key third-down sack in the fourth quarter, but we didn’t see much of him before or after the sack.
Last Week: 2

3. Anthony Spencer: Victor Butler and Alex Albright are trying to replace his production. Thus far, they ain’t close.
Last Week:3

4. DeMarco Murray: After ripping off 90 yards in the first half, including a 28-yard run, a sprained foot limited him to one carry in the second half. He’ll miss Carolina, but the Cowboys hope he’ll return soon.
Last Week: 7

5. Miles Austin: Only two catches for 31 yards against Ravens. You have to wonder how much his balky hamstring is bothering him. No idea why Austin didn’t hustle to line of scrimmage during the final 21 seconds against Baltimore.
Last Week: 4

6. Bruce Carter: Tied for the team lead with five tackles and helped hold Ray Rice to 63 yards on 16 carries.
Last Week: 5

7. Jason Witten: Admittedly awful in the first three games as he recovered from a lacerated spleen, Witten has returned to beastmode the past two games with 19 catches on 21 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown. He converted a pair of fourth-and-10 plays against Ravens in the fourth quarter.
Last Week: NR

8. Tony Romo: He threw another bad interception against the Ravens, giving him a league-high nine. He has an interception in every game this season, but Romo also completed 25 of 36 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns.
Last Week: NR

9. Brandon Carr: Torched by Anquan Boldin right before halftime and again in the fourth quarter, when the Ravens scored their final TD to take an eight-point lead. That’s consecutive sub-par performances for Carr.
Last Week: 4

10. Dez Bryant: He appears to be building toward a breakout performance. Bryant has a combined 21 catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns the past two weeks. Now, he needs a week with the production minus the drops and bad routes.
Last Week: NR