Cowboys WR Dez Bryant feels like 2,000 yards, 20 TDs can happen

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

Can Dez Bryant do what not even Jerry Rice could? (Getty Images)
It's the offseason, which means story lines that once revolved around the unfolding drama of an NFL season are now replaced by what could be -- through coaching changes, free agency, the draft, or with players already on the roster looking to improve.

This brings us to Dez Bryant, the Cowboys' enigmatic former first-round pick who finally had his breakout season in 2012. By the time it was over, the third-year wideout had 92 catches for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns. And like most young players possessing otherworldly athleticism, Bryant expects to get better. Specifically: at least 600 receiving yards better.

"That's still scratching the surface," Bryant said of his 2012 performance, according to ESPNDallas.com. "It's only going to get better, to be honest. I still have a lot to give. I feel like nobody's seen anything. Nothing. I feel like it can be a lot more than that. That's just being honest. I honestly feel like [2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns] can potentially happen."

Grand proclamations have become as much a part of the offseason as the combine and the draft, but what else should Bryant say? So while we applaud his confidence, recent history isn't on his side.

-- In August 2011, then-Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace said he wanted to break the mark Bryant's eyeing: 2,000 receiving yards. Wallace would go on to catch 72 passes for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns that season, only to see his production drop -- 64/836/8 -- under new offensive coordinator Todd Haley in 2012. None of which mattered much to the Dolphins, who wasted little time signing Wallace to a $60 million, five-year deal earlier this month.

-- Last May, former Dolphins running back Reggie Bush uttered these five words: "I want the rushing title." Innocuous enough, except that Bush came up precisely 1,111 yards short. Adrian Peterson's 2,097 yards were nearly 500 more than his nearest threat, Redskins rookie Alfred Morris. Bush, meanwhile, finished 17th with 986 yards, 171 yards clear of Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.

-- A month after Bush's remarks, Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew called Emmitt Smith's career rushing record "doable." MJD didn't do much last season to put a dent in Smith's lead; he played in just six games and rushed for 414 yards and now trails the Hall of Famer by 11,087 yards.

-- Last month, embattled Titans running back Chris Johnson said he wants to break Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record, the one Peterson missed by nine yards last season. As we wrote at the time, it's good to have confidence, but after Johnson rushed for 2,006 yards in 2009 while averaging 5.6 yards per carry, he slumped to 1,364 yards (4.3 YPC) in 2010 and 1,047 (4.0) in 2011. The former first-rounder regained some of that '09 form last season (1,243 yards, 4.5 YPC), but whether this means that he'll sniff Dickerson's record is another matter. (In related news: he won't.)

So can Bryant do what not even Jerry Rice could manage in 20 NFL seasons (Rice's best single-season effort yielded 1,848 receiving yards in 1995)? Probably not. But that doesn't mean we won't spend the rest of the offseason talking about it.

 
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