Dez Bryant should excel despite Cowboys running game

Jun 14, 2016; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant (88) makes a catch during minicamp at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 14, 2016; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant (88) makes a catch during minicamp at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

With the Dallas Cowboys adding a formidable rookie runner to their offense, will All-Pro wide receiver Dez Bryant underwhelm in 2016 or continue to excel?

After finishing 2015 with a 4-12 season ending record, the Dallas Cowboys were expected to make some well-earned adjustments to their roster this offseason.

The Cowboys running back situation seemed to stabilize as the season progressed as veteran runner Darren McFadden finished the year with 1,089 rushing yards despite only starting in 10 games. A much bigger concern was Dallas’ wide receiver corps that all but folded when they lost All-Pro Dez Bryant to injury in Week One.

Unable to build chemistry with any of their back-up quarterbacks, which was due to the two collarbone injuries sustained by starter Tony Romo, the group of Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Devin Street, Brice Butler and Lucky Whitehead underwhelmed in Bryant’s absence.

Going into the offseason, the general consensus was the Cowboys had a much bigger need to address at the wide receiver position than at running back. Yet, Dallas officials elected to address the latter and ignore the other.

The Cowboys used their first round selection, fourth overall, to pick Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott in the 2016 NFL Draft in April. They also signed two-time Pro Bowl runner Alfred Morris in free agency. Dallas did nothing to improve their receiver corps this offseason.

Instead, the team seems content to re-try the season with the exact same receiver group. And at the top of the depth chart sits Bryant, whom the Cowboys are hoping will regain his swagger following a foot injury that sidetracked him all of last season. The 27-year old wide out recorded only 31 receptions for 401 yards and three touchdowns in 2015.

With the Cowboys refocusing their offense on the running game, some are concerned Bryant numbers will take a significant dip this season. One fantasy football expert even believes Dez will be the biggest fantasy bust in 2016.

"“The Cowboys philosophy has changed with the drafting of Ezekiel Elliott and their tremendous offensive line.” wrote NFL Spinzone’s Brendan Pignataro on Sunday. “They are a team that will look to pound the ball more often than not. You saw the offensive line bully opponents last year. Elliot’s talents will not be underused. Dallas did nothing this offseason to help out their depth at wide receiver, and Jason Witten is now in his mid 30s. Opposing secondaries will absolutely focus on not letting Bryant go nuts. He’s talented enough to have some big games, but I suspect he will be inconsistent.”"

Pignataro’s argument is valid and could very well come true. He also mentioned Bryant’s health and Romo’s availability as determining factors as well.

But the Cowboys philosophy hasn’t changed as much as it’s skip a season. In 2014, the Cowboys possessed the league’s second best rushing offense behind the NFL’s leading rusher in former running back DeMarco Murray.

That same season, Bryant posted 88 receptions for 1,320 yards and a league-leading 16 receiving touchdowns. He was also named to his second straight Pro Bowl and received a first team All-Pro nomination.

Bryant has proven he still have a stellar season even if the Cowboys decide to run the ball a whopping 508 times, like they did in 2014. Others will argue a successful running game will actually improve Dez’s chances of having career-year as opposing defenses will have to adjust in order to defend the run more.

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If we are using history as a predictor of future results, Bryant has proven he can still put up All-Pro numbers when he’s not the focus of the offense. Even while he’s being the focus of opposing secondaries. The 27-year old is a special talent who’s likely not hit his ceiling yet. Dez Bryant could certainly have a monster year in 2016. I, for one, believe he will.