Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Dallas Cowboys [Print without images]

Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Dez Bryant needs to take over games

By Calvin Watkins

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The issues regarding Dez Bryant off the field don’t matter now.

He’s got a pending domestic violence case hanging over him and rules he must follow to help stay out of trouble.

What matters now for Bryant is on-the-field stuff.

Every time you ask Jason Garrett about Bryant’s work as a professional football player, he says it’s been outstanding.

The Cowboys visit the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants on Wednesday night at MetLife Stadium. These are the games Bryant likes to play in.

National television.

Something on the line.

As talented as Bryant is, elite receiver isn’t something you can place on his resume. In reality, other players drafted or signed in 2009 or 2010 have become more accomplished.

Take the lead receiver for the Giants: Hakeem Nicks. In three NFL seasons, he’s got two 1,000-yard seasons. Bryant, a first-round pick in 2010, has yet to reach that milestone once.

How about Mike Wallace of the Pittsburgh Steelers? In three NFL seasons, Wallace has two 1,000-yard seasons and 24 touchdowns. Another Steelers receiver, Antonio Brown, caught 69 passes for 1,108 yards and two touchdowns in 2011. He was drafted the same year as Bryant, who has yet to catch more than 63 passes in a single-season.

Injuries and playing alongside targets Miles Austin and Jason Witten are some of the reasons why Bryant hasn't accumulated big numbers yet.

When you round up his off-the-field stuff and the fact he hasn't taken over, it makes you wonder if he’s worth all this trouble.

"I think he’s more focused," wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson said. "I think he’s more intent on really improving. That speaks of a more mature young man."

As Bryant enters his third NFL season, he has a firm command of the offense and has a zen-like focus on the field. Some NFL experts tell you that wide receivers begin to show major improvements during Year 3.

The Cowboys believe at some point Bryant will take over games. It’s not about getting 100-yard games, though Bryant has just one on his resume. It’s about becoming a dominant force in the passing game.

We’re still waiting for Bryant's moment.

"But obviously, we’ve got to get the ball to him more to go over 100 yards," Robinson said. "That’s part of our job as coaches, to try to get the ball to the playmakers. He’s one of our key playmakers. That doesn’t mean we’re going to force the ball to him, because we’ve got a lot of playmakers. He’s got to hold up his end of that in terms of getting open, win on those one-on-one situations where we feel like he should win."

Wednesday night against the Giants would be a good start.