Dez Bryant becomes the veteran

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31
12:00
PM ET
Jason Garrett was asked about the Cowboys' desire to obtain a veteran wide receiver this offseason.

The head coach was quick to point out the team already has one: No. 88.

"We consider Dez Bryant a veteran receiver," Garrett said. "He's played a lot of games for us and played at a very high level. He's certainly a strong veteran presence for us."

[+] EnlargeDez Bryant
AP Photo/Tim SharpDez Bryant, 25, looks to be the veteran leader on the receiving corps headed into the 2014 season.
At the tender age of 25, Bryant finished 2013 with 13 touchdowns and 1,233 receiving yards. In comparison, Cincinnati's A.J. Green, also 25, had 1,426 yards and 11 touchdowns. Antonio Brown, another 25-year-old receiver, had eight touchdowns and 1,499 yards.

Bryant isn't alone when it comes to young men being asked to lead passing attacks. The Cowboys just haven't done it in a while.

The team has employed several veteran receivers over the past 10 years, including Keyshawn Johnson, Terry Glenn, Terrell Owens, Patrick Crayton, Roy Williams and Miles Austin.

There was always some young player coming up the ranks, preparing to take over. And when that time came, the Cowboys normally kept a veteran round.

It might not happen in 2014.

The Cowboys are depending on Bryant, who is entering his contract year, to produce bigger things than he did last season. He earned his first Pro Bowl berth while catching 93 passes last season.

There were growing pains such as the sideline confrontations in Detroit and Bryant's early exit from the field against Green Bay. Bill Callahan, last year's playcaller, didn't help Bryant enough. Bryant had a three-catch game in Detroit and a one-catch contest at New Orleans. In Chicago, he had just two catches.

You can break down all sorts of reasons why Bryant had the 2013 season he produced. His numbers should have been better considering Austin came up lame so many times and he was playing with younger players at his position in Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley.

With a new playcaller in Scott Linehan, the task is to make Bryant better. It's to make help him become an elite receiver like Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald.

"Dez has been able to positively influence so many guys on your team, really for the last few years," Garrett said. "As he's gotten himself settled into the role he's been in, he's an outstanding football player. He loves the game. He has an infectious way about him. People really like Dez and they care about Dez. If you come to one of our football practices, you see that. He's a very competitive guy who wants to be great."
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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