As all of Cowboys Nation argues over who should be under center come the return of a healthy Tony Romo, one giant missing piece to this offense has been lost in the shuffle.
That player is Pro Bowl wide receiver Dez Bryant. And luckily for the Cowboys, that player announced that he is ready to go after the bye for their divisional showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Now that the Cowboys have won three straight games with Bryant absent, some have had the audacity to call for a trade or even the permanent benching of Dez. Some have called him “cancerous” to the locker room, or have even accused the Cowboys of trying to work outside their offense to force the ball to him when he is healthy.
The fact of the matter is, the accusations are absurd and completely false.
Dez Bryant does not require you to work outside the offense, he takes your offense to an entirely new level.
The Cowboys ran the ball 508 times in 2014, and yet Dez still found a way to score a career high 16 touchdowns. This is because Dez is a special player, a team player, who while he wants so badly to contribute and make plays, what he wants even worse is for the Cowboys to win games.
Since Dez Bryant entered the league in 2010 he has caught 60 touchdowns, second only to the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski. When we last saw him fully healthy this season, he went for over 100 yards on 7 catches against a Washington secondary which spent millions of dollars on a number one cornerback.
As good as the Cowboys offense has looked this season, you can still tell they are missing a key piece. The combination of Terrance Williams and Brice Butler has worked nicely for Dallas trying to pick up the slack which Bryant leaves behind, but they are still not Dez.
Cole Beasley is having a career year and playing better than any of us had expected, but his production should only theoretically increase with the return of Bryant. He will be able to work on one in the slot even more often when Dez is lined up outside, due to the threat Bryant gives of taking the top off of the defense.
And, no matter who the quarterback is, Dez can catch the deep ball this team has been missing.
Some have criticized Dak Prescott for “Daking and dunking” the ball down the field to guys like Beasley and Jason Witten. They say that while his conservative throwing style protects against the big mistake, it may also hold back the offense as a whole when they face teams like the Minnesota Vikings or Seattle Seahawks.
First off, Dak is second in the NFL in yards per attempt with 8.2, so I think those critics are wrong in more ways than one. But, Dak has also shown the ability to be very accurate with the deep ball both in the preseason and regular season.
Sure, his longest pass so far this year was a 47 yard completion but Dak has the arm strength to make the throws if guys are able to get open down the field. Last week we saw Brice Butler beat one on one coverage deep in their own territory, only to drop what would have been a huge reception. If they try to cover Dez one on one in those situations, not only will he win, but he will also come down with the catch and make the defense pay.
Dez Bryant creates match up issues which no one else on this roster can. When you move him around like the Cowboys did in week 2 against Washington, he is able to exploit lesser defenders in the slot with ease.
In that week 2 game, the Redskins refused to move their $70 million man early in the game. With him being kept on one side, the Cowboys moved Dez around to face Bashaud Breeland, who he exposed. While Beasley has been very effective this year, he cannot move around the field to create those mismatches like Dez Bryant can.
Dez’s run blocking is also dearly missed.
Too many times this season we have seen Ezekiel Elliott break through the first level of the defense untouched, move through the linebackers with ease, but get tackled by a cornerback or safety who he wasn’t able to see.
Why does this happen?
Because Williams and Butler simply haven’t been able to block as well as Dez Bryant can. I am not trying to knock those guys, they have been fantastic for the Cowboys this season, but they just aren’t as good as one of the best in the league is.
Dez will lock onto smaller, weaker cornerbacks in the third level of the defense and give Elliott even more room to move and cut. This should result in even more big plays in the running game, which there certainly has not been a lack of so far this year.
The return of Dez Bryant is absolutely crucial to this offense and to this team as a whole. Sure, they have been “fine” without him over these past three weeks, but if they hope to continue to improve and be good enough to make a serious run at a championship, they will need Dez to be the healthy beast that we all know he can be.
So, stop with your bad takes and stop screaming to trade Dez Bryant. He is the best receiver on this team and one-third of the new-looked triplets in Dallas. We are extremely lucky to be able to call him a Dallas Cowboy.