Entering his third season in the NFL, everyone asked the same question about Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant: can he eclipse 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns? That was a moronic thing to ask considering he recorded 928 yards and scored nine times in 2011 despite missing one and half games and battling various injuries throughout the season. Naturally, Bryant “broke out” in 2012, hauling in 92 passes for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns. So now that he’s had his “magical third season,” what can Bryant do in 2013 and beyond to help the Cowboys win?
For starters, he needs to stay healthy. That’s obviously easier said than done, but Bryant’s conditioning has been questioned before, so Dallas fans should be pleased considering he recently said he wants Michael Irvin-like endurance. In case you’re not aware, Irvin was one of the NFL’s best at staying in impeccable physical shape during his playing days. The legend states Irvin once ran routes while working with Troy Aikman until he threw up. He then washed his mouth out with a garden hose and continued to run. To go from a guy who has “conditioning concerns” to an Irvin-like player is quite the leap, so Bryant has a big task ahead.
Bryant showed in 2012 that he’s capable of being that playmaker that Irvin was in the 1990s, but he was still missing the mental edge. Becoming that mentally-tough leader will be his goal this year and it’s going to be a lot tougher than it sounds.
This is the same kid who was banned from NorthPark Mall in Dallas for sagging his britches, got into a fight with Lil Wayne at a Miami nightclub and “hit” his mother with a hat, so off-the-field issues are just as big of a mental concern as the on-field woes. Bryant even got advice from Michael Jordan on staying out of trouble, so he’s taking it seriously in his fourth NFL season.
If the Cowboys are going to finally get over the hump of mediocrity, they’re going to need Bryant to stop almost making game-winning plays and start using his physical and mental ability to put Dallas ahead early in games and stay there.
The fact Tony Romo is missing OTAs because of a minor back surgery isn’t really hurting Bryant, who can run routes well and catch balls in traffic with the best of them. Bryant’s focus during training camp this year will be making the little mental adjustments that make big differences on the field. If he can do that in 2013, Romo will be a 5,000-yard passer and the Cowboys will make the playoffs. But that’s a big “if.”