Cowboys Confident They Can Fix What’s Wrong With Dez Bryant

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The statistics demand the question be asked: What's wrong with Dez Bryant?

The NFL's sixth-highest paid receiver at $14 million this season doesn't have production commensurate with his salary.

With Ezekiel Elliott suspended for the another five games, the Cowboys' passing game must be more productive and produce some of the big plays Elliott usually provides.

Bryant, given his athleticism, is an obvious choice.

Sunday night against the Philadelphia Eagles would be a good place to start, considering the Eagles have a 2 1/2-game lead in the NFC East, or the Cowboys could find themselves out of playoff contention when Elliott returns Dec. 24 against Seattle.

Although he's tied for sixth in the NFL in targets (83), Bryant is tied for 20th in receptions (42), 36th in yards (478), tied for 66th in receptions of 20 yards or more (4) and tied for 21st in receiving touchdowns (4).

He's on pace to catch 74 passes for 849 yards and seven touchdowns.


"In the past, including last year, we've been as good as anybody in the league on nine balls," receivers coach Derek Dooley said Thursday after practice.

"This is where Dez is outside and he runs dead straight. We throw it up and he makes a play on the ball. These are 30- to 45-yard plays, chunks, and we typically hit one or two every other game. We've gone nine games and we haven't really hit one," Dooley said. "That's the void in his production."

Bryant had a 30-yard reception against the New York Giants in the opener. He caught a 36-yard pass against the Los Angeles Rams, had a 27-yard catch-and-run against San Francisco and a 21-yard reception against Kansas City.

Forgive us for being spoiled.

From 2012-2014, Bryant had 55 receptions of more than 20 yards, including 10 of more than 50.

But that's when the Cowboys were a passing team and, for the most part, Tony Romo and Bryant were the epicenter of the offense.

Now, they're a run-first, play-action team built around Elliott's unique skill set and one of the NFL's best offensive lines.

Romo and Bryant spent five seasons together. Romo and the 29-year-old Bryant established a connection that made them one of the NFL's most lethal passing combinations.

Romo, a gun-slinger by nature, would throw the ball to Bryant even if he appeared covered, because Romo figured if he put the ball in the precise spot, Bryant would catch it.

Romo's approach is Robert Graham shirts, pants that stop above his ankles and Donald Pliner shoes; Prescott's approach is navy suit, power tie and Johnston & Murphy wingtips.

Both approaches have succeeded, but one helped make Bryant a star and the other has made him a high-priced role player.

"Me and Dez are great. We don't let missing each other on a throw or on a route-concept bother us," Prescott said. "We're gonna continue to stay at it."

"I'm not gonna stop targeting him, and he's not gonna stop trying to get open and making plays on the ball," Prescott added.

Bryant is at the point of his career where winning is the priority. He's been an All-Pro, played in three Pro Bowl and earned a big-money deal.

Now, he wants a title.

"Line one with Dez Bryant is that he wants to win," Dooley said. "Line one-and-a-half is he knows he can help us win, so when he's not involved in a game his frustration is fair because he's a weapon who can help us win."

Bryant, for his part, understands commanding double coverage and creating opportunities for others is as much a part of his job as catching passes.

He also understands Prescott is more apt to go where the coverage dictates he goes with the ball as opposed to forcing the ball to Bryant.

"Dez is unique in some of his skill sets," Dooley said. "He can appear covered and you throw it and he comes down with the ball and it's not putting the ball at risk."

"Tony was more aggressive in exploiting that. You can't have it all. Dak's best quality is he doesn't put the ball at risk. Tony was a more aggressive thrower, but that's not Dak's style," Dooley said.

Bryant hasn't had a 100-yard performance in 16 games and 369 days. He's been over 90 yards once — a 98-yard performance in last month's loss to the Rams.

Among the game's 11 highest-paid receivers, he's the only one in the last year without a 100-yard game. That said, none of those receivers has scored more than the nine touchdowns Bryant has in the last 16 games.

"You never gonna hear me say, 'Gimme, the rock! Gimme the rock! Gimme the rock!'" Bryant said. "Of course, you gonna want the ball, but you have to understand and see the bigger picture."

"We do things differently here. I don't too much focus on what another guy does. I just don't. We have our own type of game plan over here," he said. "I impact the game. You know it. They still put two on me. You see it. So I'm making an impact."

Even if the numbers say differently.

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