The Dallas Cowboys came out and made a statement early and often in Week 2 against the Chiefs. That statement was, "Hey, Dez Bryant is pretty good." In fact, Bryant is so good that he will overtake Calvin Johnson as the NFL's best wide receiver after this season.
Before Detroit Lions and Megatron fans scoff, this is a legitimate question and one ESPN's First Take already tweeted out in so many words:
Can Dez Bryant be the BEST WR in the NFL?— ESPN First Take (@ESPN_FirstTake) September 15, 2013
Let's take a look at the two explosive receivers' careers by the numbers. Both were first-round draft picks coming out of college. In both players' first three seasons in the NFL, each had one 1,000-plus-yard and one 900-plus-yard year.
Johnson began his current streak of three straight 1,000-plus-yard seasons in his fourth year in the league. For Bryant, this season will mark his fourth in the NFL.
The Cowboys' No. 1 wideout is also coming off a career year in 2012 when he posted 1,382 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns.
Obviously one cannot overlook Megatron's 2012, when he posted almost 2,000 receiving yards, though he did only find the end zone five times.
In order for Bryant to truly contend for the crown of the NFL's best receiver, he will have to best or equal his 2012 numbers. Bryant will do just that this season.
Bryant didn't get off to a memorable start to the new season against the Giants, with just four catches for 22 yards. He made up for the mediocre numbers in the first quarter in Week 2, when he exploded for five catches, 100 yards and a touchdown.
In Week 1, Bryant was noticeably frustrated with the G-Men double-teams, but Dallas moved him around to try and prevent that in Kansas City. ESPN's Ed Werder noted Dallas' attempts on Twitter:
Cowboys adjustment to get Dez Bryant more touches is using in slot sometimes to change matchups. Surprising because Miles Austin excellent— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) September 15, 2013
Bryant finished Week 2, a Cowboys loss, with 141 yards on nine catches and a touchdown.
For Johnson, short of another season flirting with 2,000 yards receiving, there's nothing he can do to prevent this discussion. It's already widely felt that the Lions' receiver is the best in all the NFL.
Bryant will force his name into that argument with a strong campaign this season and will show the league that there's another worthy of Megatron's title.
Nobody will be shocked by another stellar output from Johnson because that's what's expected of him. But a stellar campaign from Bryant will not only be noted league-wide, but will also show he's grown into an even more dominant receiver.
The Cowboys and Bryant are already beginning to learn how to get Bryant open despite double-team attempts. This is something both team and player have all season to work on and perfect.
Johnson and the Lions already know Johnson will see double coverage more often than not. The issue for Megatron is that he has little around him to make defenses back off him.
Nate Burleson and Brandon Pettigrew aren't on the same level as Miles Austin and Jason Witten.
Burleson hasn't recorded more than 900 yards receiving since 2009. Austin eclipsed that mark last year and had back-to-back 1,000-plus-yard seasons in 2009 and 2010.
Witten caught 110 balls and tallied over 1,000 receiving yards in 2012 even with Bryant posting monster numbers. Pettigrew finished last year with just 59 receptions for 567 yards in 14 games played.
It's quite possible that Bryant can end his 2013 season with better numbers than Johnson. Based on the weapons that surround Bryant, combined with his natural talent, he will find a way to do plenty of damage for the Cowboys offense.
Johnson is a freak of a talent but doesn't have a ton of other proven talent surrounding him to take pressure off him in the passing game. Megatron can only best the opposition's double-teams so many weeks in a row.
It might take a little way through the 2014 season before NFL fans believe it, but Bryant will already be the league's best receiver after this season concludes.