Dez Bryant believes he is already one of the best receivers in the league. Possibly even in the top five.
There is little debate on that, considering he has 34 touchdown receptions the past three seasons and is coming off his first Pro Bowl season in 2013.
But Bryant knows he’s not perfect and refuses to be satisfied. So, unlike the stereotypical ‘diva’ receiver, Bryant welcomes criticism and nitpicking from the Cowboys’ coaching staff.
“Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes,” Bryant said. “If it’s not right, tell me it’s not right because I want to do my best to fix it. You should never be satisfied. Nobody. Never get comfortable. That’s when you start falling downhill. Like I said, you’ve got to always have room to grow. I have a lot. I feel like I have a lot of room to grow. I’m going to continue to keep doing that, enjoying this game, living to make plays.”
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Bryant has enjoyed a great training camp and is easily the team’s top play maker. He put that on display in a brief appearance last Saturday’s preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens with three catches for 59 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter.
But the effort did not come without a miscue -- a bad route that was pointed out by coach Jason Garrett and the staff.
“It’s pretty easy to look at that and say, ‘Dez we have to do this, this and this.’ And there are other plays,” Garrett said. “But he’s playing really well. He’s a heck of a football player, who loves to play and he cares about getting better and better to make himself great and make our team great. It’s fun to coach him. He still has a long, long way to go as a player, and he wants to get there.”
Said Bryant: “It’s coaching. Like I always say, there’s always room to get better. They’re doing their job. They’re coaching us well like they always do. If you do it right, they’re going to tell you did it right. I’ve run better routes than that. We corrected that the next day.”
The ironic thing is that Bryant has worked hard to improve his route running, arguably the only part of his game has been criticized since he was picked in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
But he has worked hard to improve in this area, making the mistake against the Ravens more of an aberration than the norm.
“I honestly feel like I made a couple jump from being an average route runner to now a good route runner,” Bryant said. “It’s a step ahead of good, so I made an improvement. and I’m going to keep doing that. Being fast off the line. Trying to win the first five yards. Explosion and burst at the end of the route. Creating a better target for the quarterback.”
Bryant’s improvement as a route runner and the team’s growing trust in him in that area is manifested how Cowboys are using him in the slot to find more created ways to get him the ball.
Bryant’s status as strictly an outside receiver because of his route running and limited knowledge of the offense one reason he had problems getting away from double teams in the past. But now he will be moved all over the field as a featured and primary weapon under new player caller Scott Linehan.
“That’s part of the plan,” Bryant said. “The more you learn, the more stuff you get thrown at you. We’re going to see. I’m excited about it and we’ll see where it goes from there.”