Dez Bryant is having a forgettable season.
Most like to point to him missing most of the off-season workouts in a contract dispute, and dealing with injuries in training camp. Not building that foundation might have been part of the reason Bryant fractured a bone in his right foot during the season opener, causing him to miss five games.
But, even when he’s played, Bryant hasn’t been the dominate receiver that earned first-team All-Pro honors a year ago and a $70 million contract in the off-season.
Maybe playing only one full game with Tony Romo is part of the problem, as he hasn’t had much time to build a rapport with Matt Cassel. Regardless of the reason, Bryant is on pace for career lows in receptions per game, receiving yards per game and his catch ratio on targets thrown his way.
The latest example came Sunday in Green Bay when Bryant caught one of six targets for 9 yards, dropping two and having another bounce off one of his hands for an interception on the Cowboys’ opening offensive series.
It is easily one of the worst games of his career. The 9 yards ranked the second-fewest he has had in a game in his career, trailing only the three catches for 8 yards he had against Detroit as a rookie in 2010.
Bryant didn’t want to make excuses afterward, but blamed part of his struggles on the wet conditions and having to switch gloves three times.
Coach Jason Garrett said Monday that Bryant should have used pregame warm-ups to get a better feel on how to handle playing conditions rather than adjust on the fly.
“You try to go into it being prepared,” Garrett said. “We did some wet-ball drills at the end of last week anticipating the rain and then you get to the game early, you get the right cleats on, you spend some time outside to make sure the gloves are right, all those things.
“That’s certainly what we try to do with all of our players. Sometimes we handle those things better than at other times in a game like that.”
Garrett went on to acknowledge that Bryant hasn’t played up to the level that he has in previous years. Part of the reason, Garrett reiterated, is the lack of practice time Bryant had in the off-season and early on this season with the contract dispute and injuries.
However, Garrett added: “I don’t want to make this about excuses for Dez. It’s his responsibility to get himself ready to play and play at a high level. No one knows that more than he does.”
The numbers suggest that Bryant has failed to do that so far this season.
Entering this season, Bryant had 381 receptions on 609 targets (63 percent). This season, though, Bryant has only 27 receptions on 63 targets (43 percent).
Bryant is also averaging less than 44 receiving yards a game, as he entered the season averaging more than 72 receiving yards. And, coming off a 2014 season in which he set a franchise record with 16 receiving touchdowns, Bryant only has two scores in the eight games he’s played.
Asked how tough this season has been after the Packers game, Bryant said, “It’s been real tough, but at the same time, I still feel good. I know it sounds crazy, but I still feel good about it.”