The Carolina Panthers will have to deal with Dallas Cowboys talented but enigmatic and inconsistent wide receiver Dez Bryant today, and Adam Schefter is also reporting that Bryant will be starting for the ‘Boys today. Reports from Schefter and others indicated that he was expected to play today, but it wasn’t clear as to whether or not he would start or receive significant playing time. There were doubts about the health of his groin coming into the game, as he has been dealing with soreness there for quite some time now.
The news that Bryant is healthy enough to start is definitely bad news for the Panthers, because the weak secondary will have to try and cover another top threat in addition to Miles Austin and, in some instances, Jason Witten. The safeties are going to be busy all day, but I’m not sure who is going to have to line up against Bryant.
The Cowboys seem to use him like their primary receiver, as he leads the team in targets with 48 (Witten has 40, Austin has 34, and Kevin Ogeltree has 28). Either way, it puts a lot more pressure on Josh Thomas in coverage, and the cornerbacks are not a strong point for the Panthers. Munnerlyn has played well this season, but the absence of Chris Gamble- one of the premier lockdown corners in the league- is going to be something that Tony Romo will take better advantage of with Bryant healthy.
The 23-year-old Oklahoma State product had a huge game against the Baltimore Ravens with 13 catches for 95 yards and two receiving touchdowns. The parallels between the Ravens and Panthers are strong, because Ladarius Webb is their version of Gamble and was also out for that game (he’s out for the year). Beating the Cowboys just got a bit more difficult, but most of us knew that Bryant would be playing. But now, we know that he is going to be averaging something around ten targets. Despite the target disparity Austin scares me more due to his consistency and 9.7 Y/A average.
Bryant will also be returning punts, which means that he is going to be in for a full workload as a receiver as well.
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