OXNARD, Calif. -- Dez Bryant can do just about anything on a football field.
In his first four seasons he has shown he can make the incredible leaping catch over a defensive back. He can make the tough grab in traffic. He can make the short catch and run through and by defenders. The Pro Bowl appearance on his résumé is verification.
But where Bryant wants to improve is as a blocker, proof that this running game is serious business for the Dallas Cowboys in 2014.
“That’s one of my focus points coming into this training camp, getting there, blocking, finding that guy on the back side,” Bryant said. “Playing with DeMarco [Murray], the ball is supposed to be going left and he’ll end up coming back right. So you got to be aware. I think I’ve took a step forward, not only me, but the rest of the guys have took a step forward by taking a different approach with our blocking.”
In the offseason Bryant and receivers coach Derek Dooley met to discuss what he needed to improve upon. Most of the improvement was in the passing game, but downfield blocking was on the list, too.
“It starts with a willingness that you need to want to help and then from there there’s technique involved,” Dooley said. “So to his credit he’s actually worked at it a lot more and it’s showed up a lot more when DeMarco has popped out in the perimeter.”
Dooley twice put his receivers on the blocking sled normally reserved for offensive and defensive linemen in camp. But he said the receivers did the same amount of work on the sled last year.
“I think Dez has probably put a greater emphasis on one of his areas of improvement in the run game and that’s kind of created a story, but our guys blocked fairly well last year,” Dooley said. “I felt good about it but there were times when he could’ve given a lot more effort on it.”
Dooley said receivers have to have a “clock in their feet,” because they need to know when a running back is coming their way with their back to the action most times. He said there were times Bryant and Miles Austin were rolled up from behind and reverted to getting out of the way more than blocking.
“You don’t want to look at [the defensive backs’] eyes because they can fake you out,” Dooley said. “It’s no different than tackling. The beauty of it is blocking and tackling really involve the same fundamentals as it relates to body position and eyes. So when you tackle a ball carrier you certainly don’t want to look at his eyes because they’re going to head-fake you and you’ll fall over. You’ve got to keep your eyes low. But the biggest thing is the clock in your head. The DB will stop and relax on you and then take off. You can’t do that.”
Bryant said he appreciates what Dooley has done for him.
“Coach Dooley is one of the best that’s ever been around me,” Bryant said. “He’s made the game so simple and easy. He’s great.”