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10 Burning Questions: #9 - Can Dez Bryant Become A Cowboys’ Monster Again?

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In this series we will count down (from 10 to 1) some burning preseason questions for the Dallas Cowboys.

NFL: NFC Divisional-Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Now that Tony Romo has retired, Dez Bryant commands the biggest contract on the Dallas Cowboys, with a cap hit of $17,000,000 in 2017. His average pay spread over his contract is $14,000,000, which ties him with Demaryius Thomas for fourth in the NFL, behind Antonio Brown, AJ Green, and Julio Jones.

Has Dez Bryant been living up to that contract? Not really. The new contract didn’t kick in until 2015, when Dez missed six games to injury, then had to struggle with some of the worst quarterbacks the Cowboys have ever seen. It was the worst season of his career.

Year Age G GS Tgt Rec Yds Y/R TD Lng R/G Y/G Ctch%
2010 22 12 2 73 45 561 12.5 6 46 3.8 46.8 61.60%
2011 23 15 13 103 63 928 14.7 9 50 4.2 61.9 61.20%
2012 24 16 14 138 92 1382 15 12 85 5.8 86.4 66.70%
2013* 25 16 16 159 93 1233 13.3 13 79 5.8 77.1 58.50%
2014*+ 26 16 16 136 88 1320 15 16 68 5.5 82.5 64.70%
2015 27 9 9 72 31 401 12.9 3 51 3.4 44.6 43.10%
2016* 28 13 13 96 50 796 15.9 8 56 3.8 61.2 52.10%
Career 97 83 777 462 6621 14.3 67 85 4.8 68.3

Last year, with Dak Prescott at the helm, things were better, but not back to the Dez Bryant who earned that big deal in the first place. Part of it was that he missed three more games to an injury suffered in the Chicago game. And part of it was that he didn’t have the history with Dak that he had built up with Tony Romo. Plus, Dak had a great rapport with Cole Beasley, and the Cowboys were somewhat less of a big-play team.

Here are the game-by-game stats for Dez last season.

Rk G# Tm Opp Result Tgt Rec Yds Y/R TD Ctch% Y/Tgt
1 1 DAL NYG L 19-20 5 1 8 8 0 20.00% 1.6
2 2 DAL @ WAS W 27-23 12 7 102 14.57 0 58.30% 8.5
3 3 DAL CHI W 31-17 6 3 40 13.33 1 50.00% 6.67
4 7 DAL PHI W 29-23 14 4 113 28.25 1 28.60% 8.07
5 8 DAL @ CLE W 35-10 4 1 19 19 0 25.00% 4.75
6 9 DAL @ PIT W 35-30 9 6 116 19.33 1 66.70% 12.89
7 10 DAL BAL W 27-17 8 6 80 13.33 2 75.00% 10
8 11 DAL WAS W 31-26 7 5 72 14.4 0 71.40% 10.29
9 12 DAL @ MIN W 17-15 6 4 84 21 1 66.70% 14
10 13 DAL @ NYG L 7-10 9 1 10 10 0 11.10% 1.11
11 14 DAL TAM W 26-20 10 8 82 10.25 0 80.00% 8.2
12 15 DAL DET W 42-21 5 4 70 17.5 2 80.00% 14
13 16 DAL @ PHI L 13-27 1 0 0 0 0.00% 0
10/3/2000 96 50 796 15.92 8 52.10% 8.29

Dez had three games over 100 yards, and three more in the 80s, but he also had games of 8 yards, 10 yards, and 19 yards, including one brutal loss against the Giants where he caught only one of 9 passes for 10 yards, and then proceeded to fumble the ball to cut short Dallas’ rally.

In the playoffs, however, we saw some of Dez’s brilliance. He caught 9 passes on 12 targets, for 132 yards and two touchdowns, including this one that brought the Cowboys back from down 21-3 into a 28-28 tie.

This is the level of play that Dallas needs out of its #1 wide receiver.

In 2014, Dez led the NFL with 16 TD receptions, was eighth in receiving yards with 1,320, and averaged 15 yards per catch. His 14 AV tied him for fifth in the NFL with Julio Jones and Emmanuel Sanders. He only had one bad game that season, against Arizona.

With a full offseason knowing they are paired up, can Dak help Dez get back to that dominant play? That’s burning question number 9.

Burning question #10 - Can The Cowboys Return Game Return?