Last season there were legitimate questions about the future of Dez Bryant in Dallas. Considering his off-the-field past and his inconsistency on the field those questions were warranted.
Then came 2012.
The 2012 season was incredible for fans that love Dez. We literally watched him mature as a man and receiver right before our eyes.
After a slow first half of the season for Dez, which brought questions about his work ethic and commitment, he posted 50-receptions, 879 yards and 10 touchdowns the second half of the season. Dez was the most productive wide receiver in the NFL through that span, period.
So it’s not inconceivable to ask if Dez has finally become elite.
Numbers aside, there is a whole lot to like about the newly developed game of Dez Bryant.
Dez has a ridiculous combination of size, speed and athleticism that makes him the best player on the field at all times. He can out-wrestle, out-jump and out-run almost every player that he’s matched up against.
How can you guard that?
There was one weakness in his armor at one time. He would occasionally get caught up in verbal altercations that where purposely planned to throw off his focus. When this happened Dez would get lost in it all and disappear in games.
On November 22 something clicked though. Dez was being harassed by Washington Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall, and while it was evident he wanted to swing at him Dez decided to handle it on the field. Dez would finish with eight catches, 145 yards and two touchdowns against Hall.
What happened after that may be the one thing that saves a Dallas Cowboys franchise from the infinite loop of questions and mediocrity that it’s been enduring since 1995.
Suddenly Dez was running clean routes, playing complete games and understanding defenses. He was catching an above-average percentage of his targets. He had truly committed himself to the game.
As you watched Dez mature into this new type of player you got the feeling he was unstoppable.
Let me show you what I mean.
Here the Cowboys are playing a key game against the New Orleans Saints. The Saints are playing man coverage with two safeties playing up top.
Tony Romo snaps the ball, Dez runs a perfect slant route which allows him the advantage over the man coverage.
Dez plucks the ball safely out of the air in a position where the defender can’t make a play on it.
The defender tries to make the tackle but Dez’s strength and body control allow him to break free.
With the defender out of the play and Dez’s elite speed, he’ll go on to score the long touchdown.
Dez has become a unique receiver with a dominant skill-set. At any point he can take over a game.
If the last half of 2012 is any indication the wait is over, Dez Bryant has become the elite receiver we have all hoped he’d become.
Something tells me this is only the beginning.