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Dez Bryant: Maturing Into A Veteran Presence

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During his short time in the league, Dez Bryant has been subjected to plenty of criticism, some justified and some not, and he has been referred to as being many things. Recently head coach Jason Garrett added a new reference to the mix.

Hard work is paying off for #88
Hard work is paying off for #88
Tom Pennington

With the departure of Miles Austin, Garrett was asked about the possibility of the Dallas Cowboys adding a veteran receiver to the mix in an attempt to provide some maturity to a young corps of pass catchers. The head coach's response turned into a vote of confidence in his young star receiver.

"We consider Dez Bryant a veteran receiver. He's played a lot of games for us and played at a very high level. He's certainly a strong veteran presence for us." - Jason Garrett

While many, especially those who do not follow the team as closely as many here in the Blogging The Boys community do, may take this as a bold statement, many of us do not find this to be surprising. Over the past couple of seasons, Dez Bryant has certainly come into his own as a player and even something of a leader on the squad. Coming off of his first Pro Bowl appearance in 2013, Bryant is beginning to be the player that the team was looking for when they invested a first-round pick on the young man from Lufkin, Texas.

As a player, Bryant's numbers match up favorably with his contemporaries. In 2013 he contributed 1,233 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns despite there being several instances where the team seemed to look away from him. By comparison, Cincinnati's A J Green racked up slightly more yardage (1,426) but fewer scores (11). Both men are 25 years old. Another member of the "quarter century club", Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown, had 1,499 yards but only eight scores. Coming off of a trip to Hawaii, and with a revamped downfield aerial attack, the Cowboys rightfully expect an even more productive 2014 out of #88.

As a leader, despite some situations where Bryant's conduct has seemed less than ideal, the team is pleased with how the young man has been conducting himself. His off-the-field incidents have dissipated and Dez is now having a positive impact on his teammates. The coaching staff, Garrett in particular, speaks highly of their top receiver.

"Dez has been able to positively influence so many guys on your team, really for the last few years. As he's gotten himself settled into the role he's been in, he's an outstanding football player. He loves the game. He has an infectious way about him. People really like Dez and they care about Dez. If you come to one of our football practices, you see that. He's a very competitive guy who wants to be great."

With the God-given skills that he possesses, and Scott Linehan taking over play calling duties from Bill Callahan, Dez Bryant will be given every opportunity to become the most potent weapon in Tony Romo's arsenal this season. Because of his competitive nature and drive to be the best, Bryant should find himself joining the league's elite wide receivers. The time is now and the cast of supporters surrounding him are confident in his ability to succeed. All it is going to take is for Bryant to step up and seize the role he has focused his football life on. Given the strides that he has made recently, on and off the field, there is little reason to doubt that he will attain his goal.