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Dez, A.J. Green Have More Than Just Bright Futures
IRVING, Texas - When it comes to breakout wide receivers, it’s hard to beat what Dez Bryant has done this season, particularly in the last month.
But if any young receiver has been better here of late, he’ll likely be on the field at Paul Brown Stadium Sunday as well. Cincinnati’s A.J. Green has been everything the Bengals could’ve hoped for when they drafted him No. 6 overall last season.
He’s big. He’s strong. He’s fast. He’s a playmaker. And he has a knack for performing in the clutch.
Recently, that’s pretty much the same descriptions for Bryant, who has six touchdowns in the last four games, to go along with 29 catches and 475 yards. And most of those six scores have occurred in crucial moments when the Cowboys have either tied the game or taken the lead on his touchdown.
Too early to compare the two? One player who has faced both of them in practice before doesn’t seem to think so. Bengals cornerback Terence Newman, who spent nine years with the Cowboys, including the last two guarding Bryant in practice, sees some similarities between them. Newman went so far as to say Green is “one of the best guys I’ve faced in the last couple years.”
“He’s got a great combination of size, speed and body control,” Newman said of Green. “I think him and Dez are similar as far as the ball in the air, and they’ll both go up and make the tough catch … pretty much the impossible catch. He’s taller than Dez, but he can actually run pretty good. He’s got good lateral quickness. He’s definitely blessed.”
Green ranks sixth in the NFL in both catches (76) and receiving yards (1,107) and is tied for the league lead with 10 touchdown catches.
“He’s a great player,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. “I think we all thought he was going to be a great player coming out, and he’s certainly showed that. He’s just a really, really good football player. He’s very talented. He’s got great instincts for the game. And any time you have a player like that, that certainly helps your quarterback. They seem to have a great relationship and a great rapport.”
The connection Andy Dalton and Green have might be a tad different than Tony Romo and Bryant. The Bengals duo are both second-year players who entered the league together and were expected to have that chemistry from the start.
In the Cowboys’ case, Bryant was just 14 years old when Romo first joined the Cowboys back in 2003. But their age difference doesn’t matter much now. Romo has been looking Bryant’s way more and more in recent weeks. In fact, according to the website of Pro Football Focus, Romo has a 118.1 quarterback rating when he throws to Bryant this year.
Last week, all six passes to Bryant were caught, including two for touchdowns.
“I’ve said it before, a lot of it is dictated off coverages,” Romo said. “I’m able to move him around a little more on the field, a lot of that is because he’s understanding what to do and where to be. He’s done a good job.”
Last week against the Eagles, Bryant had just one catch for 14 yards in the first half, before exploding in the second with five grabs for 84 yards and two touchdowns in the Cowboys’ 38-33 win over Philly.
In fact, all eight of Bryant’s touchdowns this year have occurred in the second half, including four in the fourth quarter.
Garrett said Bryant has always flashed talent, but is getting better at technique as well, especially at the line of scrimmage.
“No question about it. He’s working on all parts of his game,” Garrett said of Bryant. “The biggest jump that receivers have to make from college football to pro football is getting off the line vs. press. Oftentimes, they are simply a better athlete than the guy trying to cover them in college and they just kind of release however they want to release and they have success doing it. But corners in this league can cover. Corners in this league can press. Those guys (in the Philadelphia game) could press, and they’re good at it. I think Dez had some patience at the line.”
It’s clear Bryant is rounding into form. Green has basically done the same as well. While they won’t be facing each other come Sunday, it’ll likely be a showdown of two of the NFL’s best young receivers – both for the future and present.