Dallas Cowboys: Larry Fitzgerald

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys are facing an Arizona Cardinals offense that's averaging 26 points during this current three-game win streak on Sunday.

Overall, the Cardinals ranked near the bottom of the league in total offense (25th), rushing (28th) and middle of the pack in passing (15) and points per game overall (15th).

Star receiver Larry Fitzgerald is tied for 48th in receiving with just 30 catches for 443 yards and two touchdowns. But in last week's victory over Philadelphia, Fitzgerald caught seven passes for 160 yards including a career-long 80-yard touchdown reception.

Rookie wideout John Brown had five catches for a career-high 119 yards.

Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is trying to get his defense ready minus weakside linebacker (and leading tackler) Justin Durant (season-ending biceps surgery). The team is coming off a season-high three-sack game against Washington.

"I just think obviously, a heck of a player for us, really terrific player and having a great year," Marinelli said of Durant. "It's part of the business, we got other guys stepping up and you have an opportunity to work with them and other guys have to step up that where it is. Each guy has to bring their game up a little bit more."

Marinelli saw positive things from his defensive line last week particularly from defensive tackle Henry Melton, who picked up two sacks and overall the Cowboys had eight tackles for loss and six quarterback hurries against a third-string quarterback in Colt McCoy.

What will Marinelli's group do against Carson Palmer, a veteran of 12 NFL seasons?

"Usually what it comes down to is alignment, assignment, key and technique," he said. "Every defense, every call. If we’re on our alignments, we’re on our keys, we’re on the proper technique and we’re hustling, we’ll play good. So it’s consistent throughout. Some you can see bigger than others. Sometimes we’ll see a guy get hooked for a 5-yard run, shouldn’t happen. Alignment."

Jimmy Graham deal Dez Bryant's baseline?

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
IRVING, Texas -- Jimmy Graham was unable to declare himself a wide receiver in an arbitration case, but the New Orleans Saints tight end did fairly well with his reported four-year, $40 million deal that includes $21 million guaranteed.

As the Dallas Cowboys and Dez Bryant look for ways to come to an agreement on a long-term deal so they can avoid any franchise-tag hassle next offseason, can Graham’s deal be something of a barometer for Bryant?

Graham argued he was a receiver because he lined up mostly off the line. It was an argument that was eventually denied by an arbiter, but there is some truth to what he was saying. Graham is not a tight end in the way Jason Witten is a tight end. But that is his position. Bryant will never be asked to put his hand on the ground to block somebody the way Graham is asked to do at least part of the time for the Saints.

But I digress. Let’s just look at the statistical comparisons of Bryant and Graham. Both players were selected in the 2010 draft. Bryant was a first-round pick, so he has an extra year on his rookie deal. Graham was a third-round pick.

In the past three seasons their numbers are fairly similar.

Bryant: 248 catches, 3,543 yards, 34 touchdowns.
Graham: 270 catches, 3,507 yards, 36 touchdowns.

Any discussions between the Cowboys and Bryant’s agent, Eugene Parker, have been kept under wraps for the most part. Most of the figures thrown around have been by the media. There are seven wide receivers with an average annual value of at least $10 million: Brandon Marshall, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Percy Harvin, Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe and Vincent Jackson.

Marshall, Johnson, Fitzgerald, Wallace, Bowe and Jackson have at least $20 million in guaranteed money in their deals, as does Andre Johnson, who is threatening a holdout from the Houston Texans' training camp.

Graham’s contract puts him in line with receivers if not with the top-paid guys like Johnson ($16.2 million), Fitzgerald ($16.1 million). Harvin ($12.9 million) and Wallace ($12 million) who cashed in during free agency. Bowe averages $11.2 million. The Washington Redskins signed DeSean Jackson to a three-year, $24 million deal that included $16 million guaranteed in the offseason.

So where does Bryant fit in? Should he get Graham’s $10 million average or play out the season and possibly get tagged (that was $12.3 million in 2014)?

There is some middle ground in which both sides can compromise, but Graham's deal could help define just where that ground is, even if he is a tight end (wink, wink).

Is Dez Bryant an elite wide receiver?

June, 19, 2014
Jun 19
IRVING, Texas -- Dez Bryant earned his first Pro Bowl berth after a strong season with 93 catches for 1,233 yards and 13 touchdowns. It was puzzling that Pro Football Focus didn't rank Bryant among their list of the top 101 players in the league.

The website that grades every player in the league said Bryant struggled in the second half of the year.

Yet, Bryant is regarded among the best at his position.

"I don't think about it," Bryant said. "I'm a fan of a lot of these guys in the league. I'm just going to remain that way. I'm a huge fan of the NFL. I love the game. I love seeing other players make great plays, except against us. I'm just a huge fan of the NFL and all the players in the league."

Some of the best receivers in the league are Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, A.J. Green, Demaryius Thomas, DeSean Jackson and Andre Johnson.

"It felt good. It was an unbelievable experience," Bryant added about his experience with at the Pro Bowl. "I had a great time. It was good to talk about how they do it in their locker room and how we do it in our locker room. Talk about different drills and what makes you good at this and what makes you good at that. It was good conversation."

Dez Bryant at top of Class of '15 WRs

June, 13, 2014
Jun 13
IRVING, Texas -- ESPN Insider Mike Sando has a piece up on the loaded 2015 class of potential free-agent wide receivers, and the Dallas Cowboys' Dez Bryant leads the list.

Sando had help from two NFL general managers, an offensive assistant and a defensive coordinator. If you want to read the full story, you have to be an Insider Insider, but Bryant ranked ahead of guys such as Demaryius Thomas, Michael Crabtree and Jordy Nelson.

There are six receivers in the NFL earning more than $11 million per season. Does Bryant join that list with Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Percy Harvin, Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe and Vincent Jackson? Do we need to point out the new deal DeSean Jackson signed with the Washington Redskins is with $8 million annually?

Here’s what Sando wrote about Bryant:
Bryant lined up on the perimeter for 89.1 percent of his routes last season, the highest percentage for any player on this list. Versatility is great and teams certainly feature players from the slot, but being labeled as a "slot guy" isn't the best thing for a player's value in evaluators' eyes. "It's such a difference when you have outside guys that can stretch the field," a veteran assistant coach said.

Bryant, who turns 26 in November, accounted for 29.2 percent of the Cowboys' receiving yards last season. That was the highest percentage for any player on the list. He also accounted for 39.4 percent of his team's receiving touchdowns, by far the highest for any player on this list and the third highest for any wide receiver, behind Fitzgerald (41.4 percent) and Megatron (39.4).

"You'd better pay Dez Bryant," one of the GMs said. "Jerry Jones had better pay him. The antics you see, that is raw emotion, his competitive flair coming out."

Another GM expressed some concern about paying Bryant top dollar based on Bryant's overall makeup, but both GMs ranked Bryant first on their list, as did the defensive coordinator. "Teams will bid on Bryant," a third GM said, "but not all the teams will be in on that, because of his personality."

Bryant is set to make $1.78 million on the final year of his rookie contract. He doesn’t want to leave. The Cowboys don’t want him to leave. How they reach an agreement will be interesting. Bryant did not dismiss the idea of a hometown discount in this story from Tim MacMahon last month. I’ve written that the structure will matter most.

There is always the possibility of the franchise tag.

But I will ask this question: When was the last time the Cowboys lost somebody they wanted to keep?

IRVING, Texas -- Dez Bryant is right. He does deserve to be paid by the Dallas Cowboys. He has earned it.

The question is how will he be paid?

He is dynamic with the ball in his hands. He deserves to be in the conversation with the best receivers in the NFL, such as Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Andre Johnson and whoever else you want to add to the list. That doesn't mean he is at the top of the group just yet, but he deserves to be in the conversation.


Should the Cowboys give Dez Bryant a long-term extension before the season starts?


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He is only 25. He has had more than 90 catches in each of the past two seasons. He has posted 1,382 and 1,233 yards the past two seasons, and he has caught 25 touchdown passes in that span. Those are elite numbers. And he went to his first Pro Bowl last season.

Bryant has improved each year on and off the field, and the Cowboys deserve praise for how they have helped guide him in certain manners. But Bryant deserves the most credit. He has developed close relationships with Jason Witten and Tony Romo. He has changed how he has operated.

He has become one of Jason Garrett’s guys. This year he will be asked to take more of a leadership role in the wide receivers’ meeting room with Miles Austin gone. He likes the responsibility and is not afraid of being “the guy.”

What will make or break a long-term deal for Bryant will be the structure of the contract. The Cowboys will want some insurance.

Most of the bigger deals for receivers revolve around large signing bonuses and lower base salaries in the first few years to help with the salary cap. But do the Cowboys follow that path? They want to keep Bryant hungry and happy. They have seen their past two big-time contracts for wide receivers (Roy Williams and Miles Austin) go up in smoke.

If something were to go awry with Bryant, the Cowboys don’t want to be in a position where they are hamstrung by the salary cap. With higher base salaries, the thinking is Bryant will have to remain motivated to make sure he cashes in every year. It also gives the team an out without killing them against the cap.

Believe it or not, the Cowboys can look at Terrell Owens’ deal in 2006 as a blueprint.

They structured Owens’ first contract with the Cowboys that way. In 2006, Owens received a $5 million signing bonus and $5 million salary in a three-year, $25 million deal. His base salaries in Years 2 and 3 were $7 million and $8 million. Owens had been upset at the structure of his deal when he signed with Philadelphia, which ultimately led him to the Cowboys after a hellacious year with the Eagles.

The Cowboys would want to avoid something similar with Bryant. His agent, Eugene Parker, has a good working relationship with the team, so there could be some common ground to find where Bryant is happy and the team is happy.

Schedule: Five key games for Cowboys

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
IRVING, Texas -- For a team that has lived in an 8-8 neighborhood the past three seasons and missed the playoffs in Week 17 each time, every game is a key game.

But there are five that stand out as musts for the Cowboys if they want to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009. And it might not be the five you are thinking of, such as the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers or the season ender against the Washington Redskins.

Let’s take a look:

Sept. 21 at St. Louis Rams: You might think this is an odd choice, but the Cowboys need to win games they are supposed to win. If this game was at AT&T Stadium, then you could book DeMarco Murray for at least 150 yards and the Cowboys winning big. Since it is in St. Louis, it will be more difficult but not impossible. The last time the Cowboys visited the Arch, they were pasted 34-14 in 2008 with Tony Romo out because of a busted pinky. The Cowboys missed the playoffs that year by one game. The Rams were a different team at the end of last season than they were when they played the Cowboys in Week 3, but if Dallas wants to be serious, then this is a game they must win.

Oct. 5 vs. Houston Texans: The Texans were 2-14 last year and have a new coach and will have a new quarterback, potentially even a rookie. But Houston has more talent than most 2-14 teams. Last year just snowballed on them and they could do nothing about it. This will be only the second trip to the area to play the Cowboys. In 2006, Tony Romo threw the first passes of his career against Houston in a 34-6 win. Why is this game important? It’s sandwiched between a visit from the New Orleans Saints, who embarrassed the Cowboys last year, and a trip to take on the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. The Cowboys can’t afford a three-game losing streak this early in the season.

Nov. 2 vs. Arizona Cardinals: The easiest way to make the playoffs is to win the NFC East. In order to have a wild-card chance, the Cowboys need to win their out of division matchups in the NFC. The Cardinals finished 10-6 last year and look like a team that can contend for a postseason spot even in a division with the Seahawks and 49ers. For the Cowboys to have wild-card hopes, they will need to hold off Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer & Co. in what concludes a three-game homestand.

Nov. 23 at NY Giants: The NFL did not do the Cowboys any favors with this game being on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” which will mean the Cowboys have a quick turnaround on Thanksgiving against the Philadelphia Eagles. As much as we have discussed the Giants’ success in Arlington, the Cowboys have won three of four games at MetLife Stadium. Coming off the bye week following their trip to London to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Cowboys would be best served to continue their road success in the Meadowlands with the Eagles coming to AT&T Stadium four days later.

Dec. 4 at Chicago Bears: The Cowboys were embarrassed at Soldier Field last year and Jay Cutler didn’t even play. Josh McCown threw four touchdown passes against Dallas, and the Cowboys’ offense was equally as abysmal. It might have been the worst effort of the season. If the Cowboys can win this game, then they could gain a wild-card edge. They would also have a 10-day break before heading to Philadelphia for a key NFC East matchup at Lincoln Financial Field on Dec. 14.

On Miles Austin's value

May, 30, 2013
I get a lot of questions about Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin. It seems every time a receiver of any note is potentially available, fans want to know whether the Cowboys will or should sign him to replace Austin. I usually respond with a question, specifically, "What does everybody dislike so much about Miles Austin?"

Todd Archer feels the same way, and has this piece on ESPNDallas.com to remind everyone of how valuable Austin still is to the Cowboys' offense, even with the emergence of Dez Bryant as a star and the drafting of Terrance Williams in the third round in April:
Dig deeper into what Austin did last year when he caught 66 passes for 943 yards and six touchdowns.

He outperformed the leading wide receivers on 16 other teams in catches, yards or touchdowns, including pass-catchers in Arizona (Larry Fitzgerald), Baltimore (Anquan Boldin), Seattle (Sidney Rice), Washington (Josh Morgan) and Pittsburgh (Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown). Aside from Arizona, there is not a poor quarterback throwing to anyone in that bunch.

In a division with Bryant, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson, Austin had the fourth-most catches and touchdowns and was third in yards. And he put up those numbers on an offense that had Jason Witten set an NFL record for catches in a season by a tight end (110) and Bryant explode for 92 catches for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The knocks on Austin seem to be that he's always got some kind of nagging injury that either keeps him from playing or limits his production, and that he hasn't lived up to his brilliant 2009 numbers. Valid points both, but sometimes I think we have to step back and think about what our expectations for these guys really are and what they should be. Austin remains one of the Cowboys' starting wide receivers. Even if Williams comes quickly, the best arrangement for the Dallas offense when it goes to three wide receivers will be Bryant and deep-threat Williams on the outside with the versatile Austin moving inside to play the slot. Austin can play anywhere, and produces better than your average No. 2 wide receiver. I think it's probably a good idea for fans to remember he is still a very valuable guy, and stop rushing to get rid of him.

We have talked a lot on here about the contract situation of New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, who wants to get paid based on his No. 1 wide receiver production of the past two seasons, while his team wants to pay him as the top slot receiver in the league. We don't know how that situation will ultimately resolve itself, but once it does, it could have a ripple effect throughout the league for other wide receivers looking for contracts.

To that end, Calvin Watkins examines the possible impact Cruz's deal could have on Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant, whose contract expires after 2014 and is coming off a year in which he established himself as one of the most dangerous all-around wide receivers in the league:
The Cowboys need to be cautious what they pay Bryant because of his questionable decisions off the field -- which, in fairness, don't seem to be an issue anymore -- and what the top receivers make.

Larry Fitzgerald ($16.1 million), Calvin Johnson ($15.6 million), Andre Johnson ($14.4 million), Mike Wallace ($12 million) and Dwayne Bowe ($11.2 million) are at the top of the average salaries per seasons for wide receivers.

Does Cruz belong at that level? What about Bryant?

Whatever Cruz gets, Bryant's agent, Eugene Parker, will look at and make sure he tells Jerry and Stephen Jones to take care of his client from a financial standpoint.

I think it's impossible to make a prediction about Bryant's deal until we see at least one more year of Bryant. If he continues to show that he's got his off-field life together, and if he continues to play the way he did in 2012, he will indeed be able to ask for at least what Wallace and Bowe received, and likely more. If he slips up again off the field, or his play is inconsistent in 2013, or if he gets hurt, then old questions arise. I don't see Cruz cracking that top five Calvin listed here even if he gets every dollar he's asking for, so the only way he becomes a benchmark for Bryant is if Bryant does not continue to perform at that elite level over the next year or two. But I think 2012 was just the start for Bryant, who has the talent to become one of the very best in the entire league at his position.
When you look at some of the younger wide receivers in the NFL, finances are a major part of the discussion.

Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss potential past conflicts between Jason Garrett and Tony Romo regarding Romo's involvement in the offense and what changes will be made in the 2013 season.

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Which brings us to what the New York Giants' Victor Cruz is looking for from his team and what Dez Bryant could potentially demand from the Dallas Cowboys.

Cruz was tendered by the Giants at $2.8 million but wants a long-term deal averaging close to $10 million a season. The Giants want him to average less than that.

What does this mean for Bryant?

The young receiver is signed through 2014 and will make base salaries of $1.5 million in 2013 and $1.7 million in 2014. He's also slated to make $500,000 in workout bonuses the next two seasons.

Bryant is coming off a career season where he had 92 catches for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns. He's emerged as Tony Romo's main target in the passing game and might become the emotional leader of the offense if he continues on his current path.

The Cowboys need to be cautious what they pay Bryant because of his questionable decisions off the field -- which, in fairness, don't seem to be an issue anymore -- and what the top receivers make.

Larry Fitzgerald ($16.1 million), Calvin Johnson ($15.6 million), Andre Johnson ($14.4 million), Mike Wallace ($12 million) and Dwayne Bowe ($11.2 million) are at the top of the average salaries per seasons for wide receivers.

Does Cruz belong at that level? What about Bryant?

Whatever Cruz gets, Bryant's agent, Eugene Parker, will look at and make sure he tells Jerry and Stephen Jones to take care of his client from a financial standpoint.

Witten wins best award of the night

February, 2, 2013
NEW ORLEANS -- A big night continued for the NFC East when Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten was named the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year. The award is the only one of the night that honors a player's off-field contributions, and Witten beat out fellow finalists Larry Fitzgerald of Arizona and Joe Thomas of Cleveland.

I wrote about Witten and this award a couple of days ago, and it suffices to say that I'm more impressed with this than I am even with Robert Griffin III's Offensive Rookie of the Year Award or any of the other football-based honors being handed out at the NFL Honors show here tonight. Nothing against any of those guys or the remarkable things they accomplish on the football field, but take a moment to realize why Witten's being honored.

Witten is being honored because he helps fund, establish and improve battered women's shelters in Texas and Tennessee. Himself a childhood victim of domestic violence, Witten's SCORE foundation works to install positive male role models in these shelters whose job it is to demonstrate appropriate adult behavior to the children who are growing up in them. This is a guy using his status as a football hero to make the world better. And he's doing that in a real, on-the-ground way -- not just flinging money at a problem.

And yes, there are players all across the NFL and other sports who do this, too, in their own way, including Fitzgerald and Thomas. I just think it's a great thing the NFL does to incorporate this award into its annual awards show and elevate it to the status of the MVP and other awards on which people spend so much time and attention. Football is great, and we all enjoy it very much, but it's just a game. The work Witten's doing is about real life. And that's why I think he won the best award of the night.

Jason Witten says change was inevitable

February, 1, 2013
NEW ORLEANS -- Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten was upset that his position coach, John Garrett, lost his job amid the team's coaching staff changes this offseason. But the 10-year NFL veteran says he knew something was bound to happen after a second consecutive 8-8 finish.

"Ultimately, we know it's a bottom-line business and the results have got to be there," Witten said Friday morning. "Any time you don't make it, these things go on. But we trust [head coach] Jason Garrett and we trust what's going on. The foundation's being laid and we believe in what the team is doing."

The Cowboys have replaced their defensive coordinator, defensive line coach and special teams coach since the end of the season, and they're still looking for a tight ends coach to replace John Garrett (who is Jason's brother) and a running backs coach to replace Skip Peete. It's a fair amount of upheaval for a team that appeared to be making good strides before losing the final two games of the season, but as Witten said, the bottom line is that 8-8 isn't good enough. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones decided changes needed to be made.

"The best thing about playing for Mr. Jones is you know he's going to try and do anything he can to make the situation better and try and make it happen," Witten said.

Witten was speaking at a news conference introducing him as one of three finalists for the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Witten's SCORE foundation, aimed at preventing domestic violence by helping provide positive male role models for children in the battered women's shelters he funds in Dallas and Tennessee, is the main reason he's up for the award. Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals and Joe Thomas of the Browns are the other two finalists. The award will be announced Saturday as part of the NFL Honors show.

Jason Witten humbled by Payton nomination

January, 31, 2013
IRVING, Texas – After 10 years with the Dallas Cowboys, Jason Witten continues to wait for the most important on-field success a player can have -- winning a Super Bowl. On Saturday he could take home one of the NFL’s most important off-field awards.

[+] EnlargeJason Witten
Kyle Terada/US PresswireEight-time Pro Bowler Jason Witten is a finalist for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which honors a player's community activism, as well as on-field success.
Witten is a finalist for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which honors a player’s community activism, as well as on-field success. Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald and Cleveland’s Joe Thomas are the other finalists.

On Friday Witten will collect the Bart Starr Award, which is given by Athletes in Action to the player who best exemplifies the same commitment to family, teammates and community as Starr, a Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame quarterback.

Witten just played in his eighth Pro Bowl after catching 110 passes in 2012, a single-season NFL record for a tight end, in addition to becoming the Cowboys’ all-time leading receiver. Off the field, Witten and his wife, Michelle, run the SCORE Foundation and he is active in the NFL’s Play 60 campaign, as well as the team’s partnership with the Salvation Army.

Chris Mortensen joins Galloway & Company to talk about the Cowboys' offseason changes, Roger Goodell and the distractions facing the Ravens.

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“When you think about what Walter Payton represented as a player on and off the field, it means a lot,” said Witten, who was a finalist for the award in 2007. “There are a lot of great players in this league doing great things, so you’re just humbled to be a part of that.”

Growing up, Witten saw the effects of domestic violence first hand and his foundation focuses on the recovery of victims of abuse and breaking the cycle of violence through education and mentoring.

The SCOREkeepers program places full-time, trained male mentors in six women's shelters across Texas for children to see positive male behavior. Three years ago he launched the “Coaching Boys Into Men” program, which trains coaches to educate players on the dangers of dating violence.

The Wittens also funded an emergency waiting room at The Children’s Hospital at Johnson City Medical Center not far from his hometown, Elizabethton, Tenn. He also runs football camps locally and back in his hometown that attract more than 1,200 youngsters.

“You never do it (for publicity), you do it to try to make a small influence in young people’s lives,” Witten said. “Obviously my story is unique and people came into my life and helped pave the way for me and gave me the opportunity to chase my dream. That’s what we want to do with young kids’ lives. I’ve read all about what Walter Payton did, and what he represented is what the NFL shield is all about. To be up for this type of award with his name on it, it’s up there.”

The Cowboys have had three Man of the Year Award winners: Roger Staubach (1978), Tom Landry (1981) and Troy Aikman (1997).

Jason Witten named Walter Payton finalist

January, 20, 2013
Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten was named a finalist for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, along with Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas.

The award recognzies community service as well as on-field excellence. Witten was also a finalist in 2007.

the winner will be named Feb. 2 during the NFL Honors from New Orelans, site of Super Bowl XLVII.

Witten set an NFL record for catches in a season by a tight end in 2012 with 110 and also became the Cowboys' all-time leader in receptions, of which he has 806. He was tabbed to play in his eighth Pro Bowl next week.

The Jason Witten SCORE Foundation helps raise awareness of domestic violence in North Texas and in Tennessee.

Dez Bryant making case for Pro Bowl

December, 19, 2012

IRVING, Texas – Fan voting for the Pro Bowl ended Monday and players, coaches and executives will vote this week.

The folks on NFL Live said the other day that Dez Bryant deserves to be on the NFC roster and it’s difficult to argue otherwise. Bryant has career highs in catches (79), yards (1,087) and touchdowns (10) this season and has been among the best receivers in the league – never mind the conference – in the second half of the season.

Bryant’s selection won’t be a lock. Only four receivers are picked for the team.

Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Chicago’s Brandon Marshall have more catches and yards. Atlanta’s Roddy White has the same catches as Bryant, but more yards. Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald has been hurt by the Cardinals’ quarterback play but he has the respect of every defender. Green Bay’s James Jones has only 51 catches for 622 yards, but he has 12 touchdowns. How do you factor in Tampa Bay’s Vincent Jackson, who has 1,226 yards and eight touchdowns?

Bryant would be the third Cowboys receiver to make the Pro Bowl since 2000, joining Terrell Owens (2007) and Miles Austin (2009, ’10) if he is selected.

Even if Bryant is selected, he likely wouldn’t play in the game because he will need finger surgery whenever the Cowboys’ season ends.

Can Dez Bryant make the Pro Bowl roster?

November, 29, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant is just 120 yards away from his first 1,000-yard receiving season. He's produced four games with over 100 receiving yards, including 290 yards over the last two weeks.

Has Bryant done enough to get into the Pro Bowl conversation?

Currently, Bryant is 11th in the NFL in receiving yards, and you would have to think Detroit's Calvin Johnson, Chicago's Brandon Marshall and most likely either Atlanta's Roddy White or Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald will make the roster.

Bryant has put up big numbers in nationally televised games and has a chance to do it again Sunday night when the Cowboys host the Philadelphia Eagles.

His biggest challenge could be New York's Victor Cruz and Atlanta's Julio Jones. If anything, Bryant has a chance to become one of the Pro Bowl alternates, meaning if one of the selected players opts out, the first alternate gets a call up.

Bryant has been wonderful this season, but more established players such as Johnson, Marshall and White could prevent him from getting the coaches and player votes, which each account for one-third of the vote. The fans get the other third of the vote, so maybe he gets some opportunities there.