Who'll be better?
Bryant will be better
We've seen the best out of Miles Austin.
He'll probably never have another year like his breakout campaign in 2009, when he ranked third among the NFL's receivers with 1,320 yards and fourth with 11 touchdowns. That's the ceiling for Austin, not the standard, as his significant drop-off the last two seasons has shown.
We don't know how good Dez Bryant can be yet. We should have a pretty good idea by the end of this season.
I'm betting on a breakout year for Bryant.
It's a testament to Bryant's talent that nobody believes he's done much more than scratch the surface of his immense potential yet. It's not like he stunk in his second season, when he was hobbled several weeks by a deep thigh bruise suffered in the opener. He just wasn't as spectacular as anticipated. He still tied for sixth in the league with nine touchdown catches and his 928 receiving yards ranked 30th.
But Bryant, who might be the most physically gifted wide receiver in the NFL other than Calvin Johnson, should be much better. The good news is he knows that, wants to put in the work to make it happen and has people pushing him.
Owner/general manager Jerry Jones recently publicly questioned whether conditioning negatively impacted Bryant last season. Consider that a challenge for Bryant to keep putting in the work he has under the watch of six-time Super Bowl champion strength coach Mike Woicik that has resulted in the receiver's 3.1 percent body fat.
With the help of head coach Jason Garrett, receivers coach Jimmy Robinson and quarterback Tony Romo, Bryant made great strides last season with his knowledge of the Cowboys' offense and ability to apply it while bullets are flying. Example A: Bryant's savvy sight adjustment on his 26-yard catch that set up the winning field goal in overtime of the road win against the Washington Redskins.
If Bryant keeps preparing properly, his third season should end in the Pro Bowl. And he will become the most productive weapon in the Cowboys' passing game.
Must be Miles
Dez Bryant is a talented player with speed, power and the ability to make plays.
But Miles Austin, at this stage of their respective careers, will have a better 2012 season than Bryant. It's not like Bryant is a bad player. He's good, as we've said, but Austin is more polished and, when healthy, is a force within the Cowboys' offense.
Last season is an example of just how important Austin is to the Cowboys' offense. In Week 2, while Bryant was out with a thigh injury, Austin had nine receptions for 143 yards and three touchdowns. Austin was everything for the Cowboys until his legs gave away late in the game, opening the door for Jesse Holley to emerge.
With Austin out the next two weeks, Bryant didn't score against the Washington Redskins, and despite two Bryant touchdown receptions against the Detroit Lions, the Cowboys lost. Austin remains a player who commands double teams from opposing defenses and is hard to contain when lined up in the slot. When Austin makes catches out of the slot, his speed allows him to get away from defenders.
When Austin battled his health issues last year (two separate hamstring injuries), Bryant couldn't take over. Laurent Robinson did, scoring at least one touchdown in five consecutive games. Bryant had too many games when he failed to catch a pass in the second half. You can blame play calling, defenses, Bryant, lack of experiences or even the quarterback, but the fact remains that Bryant was absent in the second half of games early in the season.
That might change in 2012 with Austin on the field.
The Cowboys miss Austin when he's out. They miss his calm presence in the huddle and on the field. This isn't about Bryant's knowledge of the game, because he knows what's happening out there. Austin is just a better player. He's more accomplished and dependable than Bryant.
So when the 2012 season begins, while it's important to watch Bryant's development, enjoy Austin and watch a talented and powerful receiver at work.
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