Do The Dallas Cowboys Need Dez Bryant To Win Week One?
By Luke Roling
Dallas Cowboys wide recevier Dez Bryant is one of the most electrifying players in the NFL. Over the last three seasons in his young five-year NFL career, Bryant has surpassed 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns in each season.
Along with Detroit Lions standout receiver, Calvin Johnson, the two stand on a pedestal above all the rest, which is no small feat considering the names below them include Demaryius Thomas, A.J. Green, and Julio Jones.
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Coincidentally, Bryant is the sparkling gem in a 2016 free agent pool that currently includes Thomas, Green, and Jones. The Dallas wideout deserves to be the highest paid man in the field, but he’s tired of waiting for someone to set the market. Dez wants a deal now.
Bryant wants a deal so much that he is now threatening to sit out through the first week of the regular season. With number 88’s unquestioned love for the game of football, this may come as a shock to Cowboy’s nation. There’s more bad news– this may make this game closer than you may think.
Let’s assess the situation.
The Cowboys square off against the New York Giants in the first game of the 2015 regular season. The Giants will travel to AT&T Stadium categorized as a team plagued by inconsistent offensive line and quarterback play, and very little to write home about other than phenom wideout Odell Beckham Jr. With an offseason to recuperate and add pieces, New York may be an improved team in the coming year.
First, the problem for Dallas is that Bryant is responsible for 35% of the Cowboys passing attack last season— production not easily replaced. The Cowboys vocal leader averaged 82.5 yards and a touchdown per game on the year. The Cowboys would have to make due with veteran Jason Witten and a solid stable consisting of Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams, but only unproven, young players to round out the lineup.
The Giants will boast a receiving attack bolstered by Pro Bowl talent in Beckham Jr. and a now healthy Victor Cruz, returning role players like Rueben Randle, and former Cowboy, Dwayne Harris. That might leave the ‘Boys at a bit of a disadvantage, assuming Giant’s signal caller, Eli Manning can hold onto the football.
The running back position also a near tossup with the Giants depth of Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, and the recently added Shane Vereen from the New England Patriots, who combined rushed for 1,751 yards in 2014 on their respective teams
The Cowboys remaining backs from 2014 had a much smaller production, totaling 442 yards on the year. The addition of Derron McFadden and his numbers still leaves the cowboys over 700 yards shy of the Giants. However, many would argue that the loaded offensive line is the real strength to this run game.
The line consists of three All Pro players, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Travis Frederick, and impressive young guards La’el Collins and Ronald Leary, and elder statesman at 31 years old, Doug Free— these men could be the real difference maker in the matchup.
Without Bryant, what was once a likely win for Dallas, might turn into a close call that comes down to the defense.
Turning to the analytics, in 2014, the Giants had just one cornerback rank in the Top 45 players for wins added (Prince Amukamara #43). You dig further into the stats and you’ll notice that the Cowboys also have only one corner on the list (Orlando Scandrick #20).
Using the same statistic, at safety, both teams also only have one player in the Top 45-– Dallas’ Barry Church, ranked 10th, and New York’s Antrel Rolle, ranked 44th, who has since left for the Chicago Bears.
Both teams may struggle in the secondary, leaving the front seven to decide the outcome.
The linebacking corps and pass rush and the defensive battle continues to favor Dallas’ defense. With the additions of Randy Gregory, Greg Hardy, and a healthy Demarcus Lawrence and Sean Lee, the Cowboys should now have the depth they need to run a Rod Marinelli’s system. Other than tackle, Cullen Jenkins, the Giants do not have much to boast.
With Bryant, I’d predict a comfortable win– for the record’s sake, I’d say 31-20 Dallas. Without Dez, I see a hard fought 21-20 win. The Cowboys’ star receiver is just that good.
You might not vibe with Bryant’s intensity or his immature history, but Dez is the real deal, the face of the franchise, and a true difference maker. The Dallas front office must pay the man, or risk losing a victory in a close divisional race.
Next: The Dez Bryant Dilemma: Will The Cowboys Draw A Line In The Sand?