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On the Bright Side: Dez Bryant's Ceiling Keeps Getting Higher

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    NEWSLETTERS

    There is going to be plenty of negativity in these parts this week month year ... Let's just say that the 2010 season is not going to be filled with smiles, rainbows and unicorns.

    All the gloom is justified and we're excited to see what manners of awfulness this Cowboys team has up its sleeve over the next 10 games, but, as "The Shawshank Redemption" and "Dumb and Dumber" taught us, man needs hope in order to survive grueling ordeals. And right now the man in the hope poster is Dez Bryant.

    Dezzie provided just about every highlight of the 41-35 loss on Monday night. His 93-yard punt return was a straight thrill ride and it will remain forever golden as the last moment of the 2010 season that harbored any promise of something other than a very high draft pick. His fourth quarter touchdowns were a totally unexpected jolt late in an unbearably long and brutal game that were made all the better by the fact that Bryant was still giving max effort when his teammates had long ago thrown in their towels.

    One more reason to like Bryant: The ESPN cameras caught him cajoling those indifferent fellows during a break in the action, an emotional attachment to the task at hand that was nice to see from a player who didn't exactly seem headed down that path during the whole pad nonsense during training camp. Yes, Dezzie dropped a pass when he came back into the game, but at least the spirit was willing. There may be a downside to his emotional nature, but we're most concerned with what we see on the field.

    The more Bryant does on the field, the more we wonder if the Cowboys jumped the gun in elevating Miles Austin to elite receiver status with his new contract in the offseason. He has the talent to back up that elevation, but we're no closer to knowing for sure if he has the consistency to back up that lofty a position. He's had some huge games and some ones where he was more or less invisible. On Monday night he was a non-factor outside of two drops that contributed to the general mess that the Cowboys dumped on the field.

    That's not exactly what you're looking for when paying top dollar for a wideout, and the Cowboys might wind up regretting giving up their leverage in contract negotiations before it was absolutely necessary. That's business, not football, but making a smarter choice on Austin and saving some money would only help the football side of things when the salary cap returns to the game. Those savings would probably grow now that the offense has shifted from Tony Romo to Jon Kitna, a pocket-bound passer who is likely to focus on bigger targets at the expense of the improvisational Austin.

    That means fewer catches and lower numbers and, at the end of the day, those things equal a lower salary. It doesn't mean Austin is a worse player, but it does mean that it helps to consider the bigger picture when making decisions about planning for the long term.

    Okay, so we aren't totally about the positivity.

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