2012 was a huge year for Dez Bryant. After getting off to a rocky start with an arrest following a domestic dispute in which he was accused of striking his mother, the talented Dallas Cowboys receiver broke out in the second half of the season (not so coincidentally, his best games came after his case was resolved), getting 879 yards and 10 touchdowns in the last eight games. He became Tony Romo's number one target and finished the year as the NFL's sixth best receiver in yards and number three in the league in touchdowns scored.
Those are some good numbers, but he thinks he can improve. Maybe to record-breaking levels.
In an interview with ESPN's Tim MacMahon, Bryant said he hopes to do better. Much better.
If he could make that 2,000 yard level, he would hold the all time record for receiving yards in a season. Those are some lofty goals. But given the way he was playing to close out the year, it is not beyond imagination.
Bryant is not just showing talent on the field. He is displaying maturity and talks about becoming a leader for the team. He cited two main influences on him becoming both a dangerous weapon for the offense and a more responsible man, former wider receivers coach Jimmy Robinson and head coach Jason Garrett. It is believed that the team encouraged Robinson to keep some formal role when he decided to step down from his position just to keep his influence at work for Bryant, and that looks like a very wise move given what he has accomplished with his charge so far.
Bryant has also shown a determination to play through pain, having a broken index finger the last three games of the season. More serious was the injury to his back suffered in the final game against the Washington Redskins that led to him leaving the stadium in a wheelchair and that has placed his participation in organized team activities this off-season in jeopardy. Currently, he is not cleared to run pass routes. He is running in a straight line, catching the ball, and working in the weight room, but he is not allowed to cut while he is still trying to get his back fully healed.
This is a situation where having one borderline superstar player at a given position is a very good argument to go out and try to find someone similar to bring on the team. A big, fast, strong wide receiver is such a vital component for modern NFL offenses that you really need to have depth as well. If the team is able to take care of some of the issues at other positions with some more signings like the reputed deal worked out with Justin Durant, then it may be wise to open up the possibilities for what position to draft.
Bryant has shown toughness, but being a wide receiver does come with substantial risk of injury. Having seen just what one weapon like this means to the team, it may be time to look at doubling up. Miles Austin certainly is capable, but he is largely used out of the slot, and has his own injury problems. Dwayne Harris has some ability, but may not be the guy you want to take over the primary wide receiver job. There are some interesting names scattered throughout the draft, and I hope the team has an eye on players like Justin Hunter of Tennessee, DeAndre Hopkins of Clemson, Terrence Williams of Baylor, Tavarres King of Georgia, Quinton Patton of Louisiana Tech, and Ryan Swope of Texas A&M. All have shown ability to break away deep. None of them are likely to be the athletic monster Dez Bryant has become, but you can't expect to have two of him on the team. What could be very useful is another player who can offer a double barreled threat deep while Austin or others work underneath, and who can step in to the primary receiving role for a couple of games if needed.
Meanwhile, we all are looking forward to seeing just how high the ceiling is for Dez. He certainly thinks it is pretty far up, and it will be exciting to see him going for it.