For all the criticism Dez Bryant takes, his heart can’t be questioned. It is in the right place.
Bryant, 25, arrived at a local Walmart on Thursday night to buy the new Sony PlayStation 4 video game system. In a spur-of-the-moment decision, Bryant bought the $399.99 consoles for several other customers in line.
“That’s all from the heart, man,” Bryant said Monday. “I just felt like there were some people there — they didn’t look like they played the game, like they were getting it for somebody [else]. They were there early — too damn early — before the game come out. I was like, let me ease it up for them, try to make their day.”
Bryant gets an early Christmas present — or a late birthday present — with the return of Miles Austin on Sunday. After missing the past three games, Austin is practicing again.
His gimpy hamstring has limited him to five games this season. Coincidence or not, the Cowboys are 4-1 with Austin and 1-4 without him.
“He’s a difference-making player for us,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He has been for the last few years. He’s a starter for a reason. He can be a very difficult matchup for opposing defenses. He’s a big guy who is also quick and explosive. We try to use him appropriately, and he’ll certainly help the other guys out just having his presence out there.”
Austin’s last catch came in Week 3, and quarterback Tony Romo has targeted Austin only 28 times this season. But Austin’s presence, along with the emergence of rookie Terrance Williams, should make Bryant’s life easier.
“You put a smile on my face saying that,” Bryant said of Austin’s return. “It’s going to be great. It’s going to be outstanding. You’ve got Terrance Williams. You’ve got Jason Witten. You’ve got Miles Austin. You’ve got me. You’ve got Cole Beasley. What more can you ask for?”
Well, more targets, more catches, more yards, more touchdowns and more wins would be nice.
Romo has targeted Bryant a team-high 90 times, and the fourth-year receiver leads the Cowboys with 52 receptions for 749 yards and eight touchdowns. While he is 21st in the NFL in catches, 18th in receiving yards and tied for sixth in touchdowns, he and the Cowboys expected more.
Bryant is on pace for 83 catches for 1,198 yards and 13 touchdowns. Only the touchdowns would rank as a career high. He had 92 receptions for 1,382 yards last season.
“Well, I can’t control that,” Bryant said. “Really, I’m not even paying attention to it. I just want us to go out and win. That’s it.”
Bryant and tight end Jason Witten have seen their share of double teams this season. Romo has targeted Witten 72 times, meaning only 43.5 percent of Romo’s 370 passes were intended for Bryant or Witten.
Bryant has been targeted six or fewer times in three games this season, including two targets against the New Orleans Saints in the Cowboys’ last game. In two other games, including the season opener against the New York Giants, he had eight targets.
Bryant has had fewer than 50 yards receiving in four games.
The Cowboys want Bryant and Witten more involved, and Austin could help.
“As an offensive staff, you want to make sure we give those guys legitimate opportunities to get themselves open. So you can do that in a lot of different ways, and we’ve done that in a lot of different ways with those guys,” Garrett said. “It’s not the first time they’ve gotten attention in their lives.
“Having said that, having other guys step up, the guys who get single coverage, who don’t get the attention is a big part of this puzzle as well. You can hurt them by running the football or with this other receiver over here. All of a sudden their attention might become a little more divided. …
“It’s always players; it’s always coaches; and it’s always people together. That’s why being able to attack a lot of different ways is important because you force them to pick your poison.”
With the return of Miles Austin this week, quarterback Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys are loaded at wide receiver. Here’s how they’ve done so far this season:
Dez Bryant= 52= 749= 14.4=8
Terrance Williams =29= 498= 17.2= 5
Cole Beasley =26= 261= 10.0=1
Miles Austin= 15= 125= 8.3= 0
Dwayne Harris= 9= 80= 8.9= 2