Say what you will about Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant, but never say he lacks confidence. In an interview with ESPNDallas.com, Bryant said it's not out of the question for him to be the first player in NFL history to collect 2,000 receiving yards in an NFL season:
The 24-year-old Bryant believes his 2012 breakout season, when he caught 92 passes for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns, was just the beginning. Bryant had 50 catches for 879 yards and 10 touchdowns in the final eight games, numbers that would be among the best in NFL history if projected over a full season, and production that Bryant believes he can build upon.
"That's still scratching the surface," Bryant said in a telephone interview with ESPNDallas.com. "It's only going to get better, to be honest. I still have a lot to give. I feel like nobody's seen anything. Nothing.
"I feel like it can be a lot more than that. That's just being honest. I honestly feel like [2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns] can potentially happen."
Can it? Over the final eight games of the 2012 season, Bryant racked up 879 receiving yards. Double that and it works out to 1,758 for a whole season. That would rank fourth in NFL history and would obviously get him in the ballpark. Detroit's Calvin Johnson set an NFL single-season record in 2012 with 1,964 receiving yards.
The opposing arguments are numerous, of course. In the first eight games of the Cowboys' 2012 season, Bryant had only 503 receiving yards, which projects to a more pedestrian 1,006 for a full season. He was handled in the finale by the Redskins' DeAngelo Hall. He plays somewhat recklessly, without concern for his own bodily harm, and that could lead to injury. (He played the final three games of 2012 with a broken index finger.) And we all know about the time bomb that is his off-field life and family background.
But I don't think Bryant's assertion is crazy at all. I think he can do it. First of all, he's come along at the right time. Passing yards aren't going down anytime soon, as far as I can tell. His quarterback, Tony Romo, is one of the best in the game and loves to throw to him. He's a physical mismatch against almost any defensive back in the league. He can fight for catches in traffic, he can go over the middle for the ball, he can make the spectacular catch and he's a threat to score from anywhere on the field.
Oh, and he's only 24 years old, and he won't turn 25 until the second half of the 2013 regular season. There's absolutely no reason to think the dazzling year he just had is the best he can do. The off-field issues will always hang over his head, but Cowboys coaches and players will tell you that he's never been a problem for them at the facility or on the practice field -- that he listens well, works hard to improve and wants to get better. Combine that with his obviously eye-popping raw ability, and it's not hard to believe Bryant is capable of doing anything he wants to do on the football field.
So when I heard that he thought he could gain 2,000 yards and score 20 touchdowns in a season, my first thought was, "Yeah, I'll bet he could." Assuming he stays out of trouble and stays healthy, I'll bet this isn't the last time we're talking about this as a real possibility.