The Dallas Cowboys open training camp on Monday. It will mark the beginning of the most important season of Dez Bryant’s short career in the NFL. Bryant needs to prove he is an elite player worthy of the draft pick and money the Cowboys have spent on him.
The Cowboys traded up to select Bryant with the 24th pick in the 2010 draft. He was thought of as a physically gifted prospect worthy of a top five selection, who dropped because of questions about off the field issues. The Cowboys took a gamble when they selected him. So far the gamble has not paid off.
In his two seasons in the NFL, Bryant has played in 27 games and caught 108 passes for 1,489 with 15 touchdown receptions. Those are solid numbers but they are not elite. In 27 career games Bryant has had only one 100 yard receiving game. He has shown flashes of being a great receiver but has not been consistent.
In the meantime, his off the field issues have become a major distraction for the team. Bryant was recently arrested for assaulting his mother. This incident was the latest in a long line of off the field mishaps for Bryant. He has been kicked out of a Dallas area mall for inappropriate dress, and has been sued multiple times for unpaid debts related to jewelry and other loans.
Bryant was famously asked whether his mother was a prostitute during a pre-draft interview by the Giants Jeff Ireland. The question was a valid one. If you are going to pay an athlete millions of dollars a year to perform on Sundays, you need to have a good idea what kind of environment that athlete grew up in. Bryant grew up with a mother who was a drug dealer and a father who was a pimp.
It is not surprising that he has had problems dealing with the responsibilities of being a professional athlete. With that said, it is time for him to grow up. The Cowboys need to find out if the juice is worth the squeeze.
They invested a lot of time and money in Bryant and the 2012 season is payback time. When you put up Andre Johnson-like numbers the Cowboys will overlook some negative headlines from off the field. When you put up a single 100 yard game in two years, the Cowboys are going to find someone to replace you who is less of a headache off the field.
Wide receivers in the NFL tend to break out in their third year in the league. Cowboy fans and coaches need to see a breakout year from Bryant. He needs to have a 70 catch 1,000 yard type season justify the faith the Cowboys have placed in him.
Jerry Jones drafted Bryant in an attempt to make up for the mistake he made when he passed on Randy Moss due to character questions. Jason Garrett wants a team composed of players with strong character. If it were up to Garrett, Bryant likely would not have been selected by the Cowboys in the first round.
The 2012 season will tell the tale for Bryant. Another 900 yard season and Bryant will likely be traded or cut. The Cowboys will simply find another receiver who can put up those kinds of numbers without the hassle of the off the field distractions.