*Editor's Note: Throughout the off-season, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing players' impact last season and how each fits into the team's 2014 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features wide receiver Dez Bryant.)*
Name: Dez Bryant
Position: Wide Receiver
Height/Weight: 6-2 / 222
Experience: 4 seasons
College: Oklahoma State
Key stat:Bryant's gaudy touchdown total of 13 was tied with Vernon Davis for third-best in the league. He trailed only Demaryius Thomas' 14 among wide receivers.
Contract Status:Signed through 2014
2013 Impact: I was really interested to see how Dez Bryant would react to Derek Dooley as his new receivers coach. I thought both Dooley and Keith O'Quinn did an outstanding job with him. It is rare that you have a player that has the talent Bryant has to continue to improve in so many different areas.
The numbers were once again impressive and he was recognized as one of the best players in the league with his first trip to the Pro Bowl. But as good as all those things were for Bryant, this was not an easy season for him. Where Bryant had to grow was in the understanding that the more productive he was in these games, the more that teams were going to try and take him out.
There were some creative ways that teams were able to attempt to do this, but to Bryant's credit, he did his best work when it was harder for him. What Bryant realized was that no matter how teams tried to cover him, he still had to run his routes hard and find ways to get himself open -- because if he were to do that, Romo would get him the ball. Where we would have seen Bryant in previous seasons not be so inclined to handle the situation this way, it just spoke of his continued maturity and growth as a player.
With Bryant, it is never going to be about his physical ability but was he willing to become a better player on the mental side? During the season, Bryant embraced the opportunity to move around in the formation to try and free himself to keep defenses from covering him. To do this, he had to learn routes from both sides but also from the slot as well -- which is never easy.
To be a great one in this league, Dez Bryant is going to have to continue to make these types of adjustments to his game and 2013 was a positive start in that direction for him.
Where He Fits: As long as Dez Bryant is on this team, he will be the lead dog in the sled. The focus of this offensive staff should be to continue to find ways to allow him to continue to grow. If that means to put more on his plate from a mental side of the game, than that needs to be done. [embedded_ad]
He is one of the most dynamic players in this league, and when you get him rolling, he can be nearly unstoppable. Defensive coordinators will not allow Bryant to just line up and beat them all day so the pressure on him will become more intense -- which is something I believe he can handle.
But what Bryant is going to need is help on the other side, and if that comes from Terrance Williams or some other source, that has to be a consideration. But from where Bryant started to now, just go ahead and load up that wagon.
David Helman: When I think back to Bryant's 2013 season, the lasting impression is the circus catches and big plays – the fades for touchdowns, the long gainer against Denver, the one-handed score against Detroit, etc. In the interest of fairness, though, it's also worth pointing out that several teams had success in shutting him down. Five different teams held Dez to fewer than 50 yards, and if you bump the yardage total up to just 73, that number jumps to nine.
It's a testament to Bryant's skill that he was able to put up 1,233 yards and 13 touchdowns despite that obvious amount of attention. Unfortunately, that attention isn't going anywhere. Even if the Cowboys bring in other weapons, the opposition isn't going to forget about one of the biggest big-play threats in the league. That's why, going forward, the Cowboys need to stay dedicated to focusing on Bryant. And Bryant needs to continue to live up to the reputation he has built for himself. So far, so good.