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Dallas Cowboys Passing Game: Is Dez Bryant Slumping?

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After mediocre outings against the Redskins and the Cardinals, many fans are worried that Dez Bryant is hitting a slump at just the wrong time. What do the statistics tell us about Dez's season so far?

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Ronald Martinez

Too many drops. Ask a Cowboys fan what the biggest problem with Dez Bryant is, and more likely than not that's what you'll hear. And it makes sense; over the last two games Dez has been credited with three drops by ProFootballFocus.com, more than doubling his drops on the season, and bringing his season total to five. Perhaps even more troubling, Bryant has posted two of his three lowest catch rates of the year (the third being Seattle), bottoming out against the Cardinals with a horrific 25% catch rate.

Does Bryant drop too many passes? Is his catch rate too low? Let's put those stats into context and look at how Bryant compares to the top ten receivers in terms of targets this year (data is pro-rated over a full season).

2014 Receiving Leaders (Prorated to full season)
Name Targets Catches Catch % Drops
Antonio Brown 178 126 71.0% 9
Demaryius Thomas 172 108 62.8% 12
Julio Jones 162 106 65.4% 12
Jeremy Maclin 160 90 56.3% 0
Jordy Nelson 152 100 65.8% 8
Emmanuel Sanders 152 114 75.0% 2
Golden Tate 152 110 72.4% 8
Dez Bryant 149 89 59.5% 9
T.Y. Hilton 140 100 70.9% 5
Andre Johnson 137 85 62.3% 5
Averages 155.4 102.8 66.2 7

Not horrible but not great either. Both Demaryius Thomas and Julio Jones have more drops, and Antonio Brown is tied with Dez at nine. Again, much more worrisome is his catch rate, as only Jeremy Maclin has a lower value. So far this hasn't really told us much; Dez isn't catching the ball at an elite rate, and his drops are pretty high. Actually by the table above his entire usage rate is low, only two receivers end up with less targets and only one with less catches. Right now Dez isn't producing like a top ten receiver, but how do his numbers this year compare to the past few years top 10 averages?

Targets Catches Catch% Drops
Dez Bryant 149 89 59.5 9
2012 Avg 161 100.9 62.7 10.2
2013 Avg 159.4 97.7 61.3 11
2014 Avg 155.4 102.8 66.2 7
3 Year Avg 158.6 100.5 63.3 9.4

Not very well. So what's going on? Is Dez Bryant actually not as good of a receiver as we think? Or is it a slump? If we go back and prorate his season through eight games, something interesting occurs:

Targets Catches Catch% Drops
Dez Bryant (through 8 games) 152 96 63.2 6
Dez Bryant 149 89 59.5 9
2012 Avg 161 100.9 62.7 10.2
2013 Avg 159.4 97.7 61.3 11
2014 Avg 155.4 102.8 66.2 7
3 Year Avg 158.6 100.5 63.3 9.4

Now we're getting somewhere! Take out the Cardinals game and prorate the numbers and Bryant is suddenly looking like a top 10 receiver again. So just for fun, what happens if we take out the Redskins game as well?

Targets Catches Catch% Drops
Dez Bryant (through 7 games) 157.1 102.9 65.2 5
Dez Bryant (through 8 games) 152 96 63.2 6
Dez Bryant 149 89 59.5 9
2012 Avg 161 100.9 62.7 10.2
2013 Avg 159.4 97.7 61.3 11
2014 Avg 155.4 102.8 66.2 7
3 Year Avg 158.6 100.5 63.3 9.4

Well there we have it. Through the first seven weeks Dez was playing not like a top ten receiver, but like a top five receiver. Two weeks later he's having trouble cracking the top ten. That ladies and gentlemen, is the definition of a slump.

What's It Mean? It can't be just a coincidence that Dez's slump occured at the exact same time that Brandon Weeden took over as QB. Three games ago Dez was coming off of his best game of the season and quite possibly his career, an absolute monster game against the Giants. Now he's only catching 25% of his passes? I don't buy it. Dez is slumping that's true enough. But that slump has a lot more to do with who is under center than it does with Dez Bryant.