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NFC East: How Far Ahead Is Dez Of The Other Division WRs?


Sometime in the next few weeks – maybe even as early as Wednesday night -- we're going to see Dez Bryant's name pop up near the top of the NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2014" list.

Bryant climbed all the way to the No. 35 spot in last year's ranking, and he followed that up with a 1,233-yard, 13-touchdown effort in 2013. Name a game from last season and there's a great chance it featured Dez making at least one spectacular play.

Even the 49-17 spanking at the hands of the Saints saw Dez make a crazy, fully-extended 44-yard catch. Yes, it was his only catch of the game, but still.

It's entirely deserving that Dez eclipse his old mark of 35th in the league, and he could conceivably climb as high as the top 10 or the top 20. He's one of the best receivers in the NFL, and he's going to enter the 2014 season as the unquestioned best receiver in the NFC East.

That raises an interesting question for me, though. I think most people would agree Bryant is the best receiving weapon in this division as of right now. But do the Cowboys have the best situation possible among their NFC East rivals?

Dez is joined in the Top 100 by teammate and likely Hall of Famer Jason Witten, who just barely cracked the list at No. 98.

Even if we're including Witten in this conversation, though, is that a better punch than what Washington is currently packing?

Last month, newly-crowned NFL receptions leader Pierre Garcon cracked the list at No. 80 for the Redskins, largely thanks to his 113-catch, 1,346-yard 2013 season. Two weeks later, his teammate and newly-signed free agent DeSean Jackson joined him on the list at No. 63.

Jackson was Bryant's primary partner for the NFC at the Pro Bowl in January, after he compiled his best-ever season in Chip Kelly's offense with the Eagles. He earned his third Pro Bowl selection with 82 catches for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns for the division champion Eagles.

Perhaps the biggest knock on Jackson during his mercurial NFL career has been his inability to beat concentrated coverage. Plenty of teams, such as the Cowboys in 2013, have been capable of shutting him down when they make the effort.


If Garcon can maintain his fantastic run of play from last fall, though, good luck focusing all your coverage around the speedy Jackson. With one free agency signing back during the spring, the Redskins gave themselves one of the best combinations of steady possession receiver and dynamic playmaker.

I don't think it's a hard argument that Bryant is better than both. But is he good enough on his own to outweigh that tandem? We saw several times last season that opposing defenses were capable of taking him out of a game – the Saints and Bears, specifically.

Is Witten enough to offset that? Or is Terrance Williams capable of making another leap in his progression, giving opponents another receiver worth being afraid of? That's an interesting question for the coming season. Those other guys in the NFC East – Victor Cruz, Riley Cooper, Jeremy Maclin, Rueben Randle – aren't exactly slouches either. It'll  be fun to see if Dez can maintain his upward trajectory, particularly with all the other pass-happy offenses he's competing against.

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