Dez Bryant’s best chance at rejoining the Dallas Cowboys

Wide receiver Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Wide receiver Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

With Randall Cobb gone, a spot has opened up at WR3 on the Dallas Cowboys. How could Dez Bryant be a realistic option?

Dez Bryant has been making his case, pretty much since the day he was cut back in 2018, to return to the team that made him famous: the Dallas Cowboys. But nearly three years removed from a professional game, can he realistically contribute as a top-3 WR on the Dallas Cowboys? And if so, it’s what role, exactly?

First, we have to look at why Dez was cut in the first place: Dez was never considered a speedster or a very nuanced route runner. No. 88 relied on strength and explosiveness to dominate in the NFL. So when that strength and explosiveness faded, he didn’t have anything to fall back on. That led to little to no separation and far too many contested ball situations. It was a steep fall off.

What Must Improve

Basically, for the Cowboys, the cost became too great for a WR who could no longer be relied on to run a good route, run the right route, or present himself as a viable target.

That was roughly three years ago (2017). Do we think Dez has improved on his 2.4 yards of separation, 5.1 yards of cushion (one of the worst in the NFL), and 52.27 percent catch rate (Not. Good.)?  Probably not (numbers per Next Gen Stats).

For over a year we’ve seen videos of Dez Bryant running pretty routes and snagging balls above the rim and in-stride. It’s been great for people like me who are unabashed Dez Bryant fans. But if we’re being honest, does any of that mean anything?

What we need to see is if Dez can read the coverage and run the right route. We need to see him run the same route with the same crispness and same timing, every single time. We need to see him create some separation and command help over the top. Because last time we saw Dez in game situations, he couldn’t do any of this consistently.

Where does Dez Bryant fit on the Dallas Cowboys?

To play slot receiver in the NFL you should be an elite route-runner, a burner, or an uber-consistent target in quick strike RPO offense.  Dez really only has a chance at being at being the third. Bryant’s best chance of having a role inside is taking the role of Big Slot. But with younger options like Blake Jarwin and Noah Brown already on the roster, Dez is a little redundant.

Note: Jarwin is a flex tight end which more similar to a Big Slot than it is to a traditional inline Jason Witten type of tight end.

Dez Bryant’s best chance at breaking into the top-3 is to be an X again. If he can prove he can beat coverage in press, creating separation and commanding a safety presence over the top from time to time, he could allow Amari Cooper to slide inside when the Dallas Cowboys move to 11 personnel.

Amari would absolutely carve up defenses inside at the slot and potentially take the Cowboys offense to the next level. Many people forget the slot receiver position often produces the most EPA per play out of all the receiver positions. That’s why so many of the NFL’s best outside receivers move inside and take a ton of snaps at slot when the team moves to 11 personnel.

Related Story. 3 Myths About Slot Receiver in the NFL. light

Playing the X is Dez Bryant’s best chance at being a top-3 WR on the Cowboys – doing what struggled with back in 2017. And if he can’t be a top-3 WR in 2020, I’m not sure there’s a place for him on the roster unless, God forbid, there’s an injury to Cooper or Michael Gallup.

No matter what, it makes zero sense to re-sign Dez before the draft. For the same reason it was smart to let Randal Cobb leave, it’s smart to wait on Dez: this draft is loaded with WR talent. Only if Dallas fails to secure a starting WR in the draft (assuming we count WR3 as a starter), should they consider signing Dez.

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I love Dez Bryant and I’d love to see him rejoin the team and redeem himself, but that’s not very likely to happen. If it does, he’s probably as a part-time X and part-time Big Slot.

  • Published on 04/09/2020 at 12:28 PM
  • Last updated at 04/09/2020 at 19:32 PM