Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant can’t catch a break. However, he’s still plugging along after multiple lawsuits against him and everyone from here to Timbuktu criticizing his play, effort, maturity and intelligence. Houston Oilers Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon recently took a shot at Bryant, but Cowboys team owner Jerry Jones defended his young star. Bryant doesn’t need help, though; he’s taking everything in stride.
Moon recently used an analysis of Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon to blast Bryant during a recent radio interview. He said “[Blackmon] is like Dez Bryant with all of his brain cells” and “he’s not a knucklehead [like] Dez Bryant.”
As mentioned, Bryant has had his share of on- and off-field issues, but he’s come a long way from the immature freak of an athlete that entered Valley Ranch almost two years ago. Bryant not only has become a force on the football field, but he’s also cleaned up his act off it.
Naturally, Jones fired back at Moon with an honest assessment of Bryant in a positive manner.
“I think certainly Dez is everything that we had hoped he would be as a player and he knew and we knew that he had some off-the-field challenges that were not of substance nature, which is bit-time important, but was more maturity,” Jones said. “He hasn’t disappointed in terms of how we evaluate him, but he has certainly made improvement in those areas. He is everything that we thought he would be and we will and want to get the ball in his hands more.”
The Cowboys did get the ball into Bryant’s hands more in 2011; he caught 63 passes for 928 yards and nine touchdowns in 13 games. That’s the kind of production expected from a first-round pick that has to compete with the likes of Miles Austin, Jason Witten and Laurent Robinson for passes from Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
However, Bryant’s improvement from his rookie season in 2010 was monumental and Moon obviously didn’t watch any Cowboys football this season. Dallas may have been disappointing as a team, but Bryant’s progress as a player was incredible.
Dez was extremely frustrating to everyone around him during his rookie season; he made you want to grab him by the shirt collar, shake him around and tell him to straighten up. He wasn’t a totally different player when the 2011 season began, but he was by the time it ended.
Bryant often made ridiculous catches that are common by the likes of superstars Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. In addition, he grew as a football player from an intelligence standpoint; Bryant frequently made route adjustments depending on opposing coverages. He didn’t even know what that was a year ago.
Bryant learned from mistakes like the one he made at the end of the Cowboys’ loss to the New York Jets in Week 1 and then made great plays like the one he did at the end of the Cowboys’ loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 13.
Moon’s comments would have been justified had he made them a year ago, but this was uncalled for because it’s no longer true. Jones’ response was expected, so he’s not to be commended for that. The only person to be praised for this situation is Bryant. He didn’t respond to Moon verbally, but did so by his actions this past year as a progression throughout the season. Bryant will be the man in Dallas in 2012, regardless of what Warren Moon thinks.
Follow Jeric Griffin on Twitter @JericGriffin