2,000 Yards, 20 Touchdowns: Can Dez Bryant Walk The Walk?
No wide receiver in the history of the NFL has reached the 2,000 yard plateau. Only two have produced over 1,800 yards in a season. One was the best receiver of all-time -- Jerry Rice. The other, Calvin Johnson, broke Rice's 17-year-old record this past season and finished with 1,964.
Only two receivers have eclipsed 20 receiving touchdowns in a single season -- Rice (22) and Randy Moss (23). Several others have come close but couldn't quite accomplish the rare feat. Rice's record-breaking yards and touchdowns didn't even occur in the same season, they happened eight years apart.
In a recent interview with ESPNDallas.com, Dez Bryant claimed he feels that both 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns would be within his reach after his breakout season in 2012:
"I feel like it can be a lot more than that. That's just being honest. I honestly feel like [2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns] can potentially happen."
Bryant caught 92 passes for 1,382 and 12 touchdowns last season, good enough for fourth on the Cowboys' record list for single-season yards & third for single-season touchdowns. Now while some may think that Dez is "potentially" crazy, his projections aren't actually as insane as they seem.
Let's get the obvious out of the way, the NFL has become a primary passing league. Several quarterbacks spend almost, if not more, time in the shotgun than they do under their centers nowadays. Add in the multitude of rules that prevent defenses from playing as hard as they'd like to and you have a recipe for a successful aerial attack. The art of the run game has become lost among many teams and the NFL sometimes mirrors that of an Arena Football League game. It is this lost art that makes Bryant's claims a lot more realistic than others would agree to. Let's run some numbers to back up his theory.
The percentage of target passes Bryant caught last season. He caught 92 passes on 138 targets, exactly two-thirds of the balls thrown his way.
The number of targets Calvin Johnson had last season. Although he only caught 122 passes on those 205 targets (59.5 percent), Bryant will have to garner somewhere around that number or targets to have a remote chance at eclipsing either receiving barrier.
The number of combined targets between Jason Witten and Miles Austin. Despite becoming the clear number one option for quarterback Tony Romo, Bryant still has to compete for targets with Witten and Austin, which could significantly hinder his chances.
879 and 10
The number of yards and touchdowns Bryant had in his final eight games last season. If he can maintain that consistency and chemistry with Romo this season, the sky could very well be the limit for Bryant.
While Bryant clearly possesses the skills necessary to achieve such a monstrous feat, so did Jerry Rice and so does Calvin Johnson, yet neither were able to accumulate both 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in a single season. It's not completely out of the question to think Bryant could amass one or the other, but not both.
One difference between Johnson and Bryant is that Bryant has a supporting cast of receivers that allows him to see single coverage, a privilege Johnson is not always afforded. Unfortunately, that is also Bryant's biggest downfall when it comes to his overall production.
I can't see Bryant producing either 2,000 yards or 20 touchdowns this season. But mark my words, we're not far from seeing someone achieve this extraordinary feat.