Now that Dez Bryant has been pushed out the door by the Cowboys, what can we realistically expect out of the once great but now aging veteran?
It was pretty clear that Bryant’s play was declining in Dallas, but there are a few reasons why. Part of his drop in numbers can be blamed on the change at quarterback. Dez and Dak never quite seemed to click like Dez and Romo. And Dak’s strength isn’t throwing it deep, where Dez used to excel.
But the more important thing to look at here, and the thing that is going to have bigger long-term implications, is Bryant’s health.
Here’s a quick look at all of his injuries since 2015:
- knee injury- December 2017
- ankle sprain- November 2017
- knee injury- November 2017
- back injury- November 2016
- knee injury- September 2016
- concussion- August 2016
- foot surgery- January 2016
- knee injury- November 2015
- Jones fracture (foot) surgery- September 2015
As you can see, it’s a long list. The lower body injuries are especially concerning. Once they start to pile up for a speedy wide receiver, it greatly lowers productivity potential. It’s apparent that the foot, knee and ankle issues he faced lead to a serious decline in recent years.
So the question remains, how much does he have left in the tank?
We can’t expect Dez to produce like he did in his first five years in the league. He topped 1,000 yards each year from 2012-2014, then in 2015 he suffered the dreaded Jones fracture in the first game of the season. Bryant played just 9 games that year and was good for 401 yards and three touchdowns. He returned way too soon from his injury and clearly wasn’t anywhere near 100%. 2016 was slightly better with 796 yards and 8 TDs, but he missed three games due to injury. In 2017 he didn’t miss any games, but his numbers were subpar (838 yards, 6 TDs). Unfortunately it was clear that he can no longer compare to the elite wide receivers in the NFL.
Now that he has had three months to rest and recover following the season, Bryant should be in better shape than he was in week 17. But our algorithm is still calculating a High Injury Risk for him. That’s an indication that injuries remain a serious concern despite no current injuries to deal with. Bryant has suffered a concussion, which puts him at a greater risk of suffering an additional head injury and missing significant time. The repetitive nature of his lower extremity injuries, in particular his lingering knee injury, also make him a significant risk to any team.
It’s important for any team looking at signing Dez to take into account his injury history when writing up his contract. He has experience and a proven track record of being one of the best in the game when healthy, but those days are over. He can still contribute, but he could miss a lot of time and doesn’t have the same speed he once did. We are currently showing an Above Average HPF (Health Performance Factor), an indicator that at this moment he is healthy enough to be a solid contributor. But it will only take one play for him to be back on the sidelines.
With six lower body injuries in three years, there’s no telling what problem he is going to face this season. An incentive-laden contract will make a lot of sense. If Dez can’t stay on the field, he obviously can’t contribute.
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