- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas -- The two biggest weapons in the Dallas Cowboys' passing game are wide receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten. Over the past three games, the duo hasn't been productive on a consistent basis.
Bryant has 10 catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns, and he's coming off a one-catch effort against the New Orleans Saints last week. Witten has totaled 12 catches for 144 yards and one touchdown over the past three weeks. He caught just two passes for 27 yards against the Saints.
Both get plenty of attention from defenses.
Linebackers will smother Witten after the snap, delaying him an opportunity to get into his routes. Bryant is also jammed at the line of scrimmage, and if he beats the coverage he then faces a safety who covers him deep, preventing throws down the field.
"It's been tough," Witten said. "Dez and I both. It's been frustrating with the coverage we have seen. When the opportunities are limited, it makes it tough. We will work through that. The bye comes at a good time to get guys healthy and review, and try to get a couple wrinkles."
The Cowboys have lined Bryant up at different spots before the snap. The Cowboys could use bunch formations, motions, quicker routes and a number of things to give him the ball. The Cowboys are inconsistent in force-feeding the ball to Bryant, but it's something that might be needed.
Bryant is 12th in the NFL with 749 yards, but after watching the past three games, getting to 1,000 receiving yards, while it should happen, will be a struggle.
Bryant was targeted just twice against the Saints, and receivers coach Derek Dooley said that's unacceptable.
"I think any time you go through a game like last week, it’s always a great opportunity -- this open week comes at a good time for us as coaches, first off, to really make sure we’re doing everything we can to put him in a position to succeed," Dooley said. "And we’ll continue to do that. I think he’s had a very good year so far. But certainly our expectations on him are higher than anybody else we can coach, so there’s a lot more we expect out of him, and hopefully we’ll work toward that."
Last season, Witten led NFL tight ends in catches (110) and yards (1,039). This season he's fifth in catches (47) and yards (532), but Witten has never been a numbers guy. He's all about production in terms of helping the team, and the Cowboys have to figure out ways to get him open, too.
"That's what's good about the system, it's held up for a long time," he said. "We have to continue to work within it."