Dez Bryant: Embattled Cowboys WR Finally Making Claim as Elite NFL Receiver

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVNovember 22, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 18: Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys signals catches a touchdown pass against the Cleveland Browns at Cowboys Stadium on November 18, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. The Cowboys defeated the Browns 23-20. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

It certainly took a bit of time for him to gain his footing in the league, but it's becoming more and more obvious that Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant is worth the title of elite NFL wideout moving forward.

We all knew of Bryant's unique athletic and pass-catching abilities when he entered the league in 2010, and he didn't disappoint, posting solid numbers in his rookie campaign. Despite missing the end of the season and only playing in 12 games, Bryant put up more than 500 receiving yards with six touchdowns.

Mind you, these numbers came with Bryant not even starting.

That's when the off-the-field issues that many Cowboys fans feared showed up. In the offseason between his rookie year and second season, Bryant was sued for nearly a million dollars for allegedly taking jewelry without paying for it. This was far from the only instance of issues in his personal life since he joined the league.

Like it or not, you can't be an elite player in this league if you can't control your character issues off the field. Look no further than Plaxico Burress as an example of a once-elite power that receded to expendable because of poor decisions. This was perhaps the only thing separating Bryant from reaching that next level. 

But another great showing in his sophomore season with the Cowboys gave hope for the former first-round pick. Bryant put up 928 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in his first year as a starter. His replacement of the oft-shunned Roy Williams helped energize the Cowboys' passing attack. 

Thankfully for Jerry Jones and Dallas, Bryant has seemed to get his act together this season through a combination of off-the-field conduct rules and a hired security staff. And according to this recent feature from Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas, it seems like Bryant has used the opportunity to become a more mature human being. 

This couldn't have happened at a better time for the Cowboys.

As if his first two seasons weren't impressive enough, Bryant is in the midst of a breakout season in 2012. He looks to surpass 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career and is slowly becoming the No. 1 wideout for America's team.

At the brisk age of 24, Bryant has arguably the highest potential of any young NFL receiver.

Tony Romo still has other formidable offensive weapons in Jason Witten and Miles Austin, but both aren't in the best shape physically. Bryant seems to be in tip-top form and is the team's most athletic target. 

The Cowboys' other targets will allow Bryant to enjoy one-on-one coverage much more, letting him use his ridiculous physical frame to leap and grab balls that his competitors can't reach.

With DeMarco Murray out again (per ESPN) for the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day against the Washington Redskins, expect Bryant to have another solid outing. He'll help put points on the board for the hometown Cowboys and continue to prove why he's an elite NFL receiver.