Dez Bryant announced Wednesday on Twitter that he is eyeing a return to the NFL.
I’m not trying to go nowhere and be a starter on a team I want to contribute because I know I will be able too… I’m feeling good… in two weeks I’m going to reach out to teams and see what happens…. let’s go X
— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) November 6, 2019
The former Dallas Cowboy was released from the team last season before finding a temporary home with the New Orleans Saints. Unfortunately, Bryant tore his Achillies in their first practice. And the then 30-year-old receiver was forced to grind through an expected eight-month recovery, which could have put him back on the field in July at best.
Now being nearly a full year removed from the injury, Bryant hopes to find a team within the next two weeks of this NFL season.
The last time the NFL community saw Bryant in action was 2017, where he finished with 69 catches for 838 yards and six touchdowns alongside Dak Prescott.
Bryant was one of the top receivers in the NFL from 2012-14, with more than 1,200 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns each season. He was named first-team All-Pro in 2014 after leading the NFL with 16 touchdowns.
It’s not far off to assume the Saints may resign the 31-year-old receiver given the lack of depth at the position found behind Michael Thomas.
However, given the attachment to the former all-pro, the question on many fans’ minds is if a possible reunion is in the cards for Bryant and the Cowboys. And, does it make sense?
The top-five wide receivers in terms of receiving yards in 2018 were Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans, Tyreek Hill, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. While players like Jones and Hopkins fulfill the prototype X receiver-role Bryant once commanded, a different type of receiver has emerged capable of serving as a team’s main receiving weapon.
It’s a weapon Amari Cooper possesses but has rarely been deployed as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
The 22-year-old Smith-Schuster exploded last season paired next to Antonio Brown, putting up 1,426 receiving yards and 7 TDs, all while taking over 60% of his snaps from the slot, according to USA Today.
WR Adam Thielen, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 200 pounds, made the Pro Bowl last season while setting new career-highs in receiving yards (1,373) and touchdowns (9). Thielen ran a receiving route from the slot position on 57% of his offensive snaps last season (as per Pro Football Focus), which generated 68 receptions, 712 yards, and seven touchdowns.
By contrast, Cooper lined up in the slot just 16% of his time in Dallas. Of the 65 total offensive snaps he took from the slot, Cooper was targeted as a receiver just 14 times. For comparison, Smith-Schuster and Thielen received 92 and 86 slot targets respectively last season, as reported by Cowboys beat writer Zeke Barrera.
The two games in which Cooper recorded the most snaps from the slot were in Week 14, during his three TD, 217-yard torching of the Eagles (22), and the divisional playoff game against the Rams (16). The 29-yard TD he scored in that game’s first quarter occurred when Cooper was lined up in the slot. — Cowboys Wire USA Today
AMARI COOPER HOUSE CALL! 💥
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 13, 2019
In a PFF article written during week 13 of the 2017 NFL season, it mentioned he brought in seven of his 15 receiving touchdowns (46.7 percent) at the slot position.
“The Alabama product’s dominance in the slot even dates back to his final year in Tuscaloosa, as he totaled 443 receiving yards and four touchdowns on just 66 slot routes to average 6.71 YPRR with the Crimson Tide in 2014.” — PFF Football.
In a season where Randall Cobb, Dallas’ primary slot WR, has only logged 25 receptions, Bryant would allow the Cowboys to more often utilize Cooper in the slot while having a traditional-X receiver capable of filling that outside role.
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