Confidence is not a weakness for Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. As I'm sure most POD faithful know by now, Bryant found himself in a media firestorm this week after saying that there was nothing Calvin Johnson could do that he couldn't. He has since semi-recanted this statement and said it was meant as a tribute and not as a comparison, but it was enough to give the Detroit Lions some bulletin board material this week. Nate Burleson provided the best recap of the Bryant-Johnson debate during an interview on Tuesday.
Even if Bryant is not on Calvin's level, he is among the handful of elite receivers in the NFL. In his fourth season in the league, Bryant is putting together another excellent campaign. Through seven games, Bryant is ranked eighth in receptions (42), 10th in yardage (569) and third in receiving touchdowns (6). The scary thing is that he is actually slightly below his 2012 pace due to a dip in his yards per catch. Basically, he is really good.
With the Lions' secondary's struggles this season, Bryant is a huge threat this week. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has been extremely accurate this year, completing 68.3 percent of his passes. The Lions will not be able to focus solely on Bryant in coverage, as Romo has quite a few weapons to work with besides Bryant and does a good job spreading the ball around. Tight end Jason Witten, receiver Terrance Williams and running back DeMarco Murray all have over 20 catches on the season.
The area Bryant is most dangerous is with room after the catch. He is big enough to break tackles -- Pro Football Focus credited 44 of his 110 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 7 as after contact -- and fast enough to run away from defenders. He currently ranks sixth in the league among receivers with 206 yards after the catch. Given cornerback Chris Houston's difficulty defending against big plays last week, this matchup has me worried.
The best way to limit Bryant on Sunday will be to take away his deep threat by limiting Romo's time in the pocket. This has not been a strength of the Lions in the past couple of weeks, but the Cowboys' pass protection has been pretty average this year with 16 sacks allowed on the season. Defensive Coordinator Gunther Cunningham may have to dial up a few blitzes or use more zones this week if the cornerbacks are not up to man coverage. As Lions fans will remember from 2011, Romo will turn the ball over when pressured, so that is a key to the game.