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How to Anticipate the Return of Dez Bryant

News came out from the Baltimore Ravens that they have signed wide receiver Dez Bryant to their practice squad, ESPN reports. Bryant has not played an NFL game since Dec. 2017. He spent eight seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, totaling 531 receptions, 7,459 yards gained, 73 touchdown catches and a 58.4 percent catching rate.

The last game Dez Bryant played for the Dallas Cowboys was against the Philadelphia Eagles on Dec. 31 2017. He had 3 receptions, 24 yards gained, and no touchdown catches that game (Photo Credit: Patrick Walker: CBS Sports)

Bryant was cut by the Dallas Cowboys in 2018, but was quicky picked up by the New Orleans Saints. Unfortunately, Bryant never made it to preseason games as he tore his Achilles tendon that ruled him out of the season. He has stayed very active on Twitter in the past two years, though he prayed for another opportunity to get to play in the NFL again.

When Bryant got the offer from the Ravens, he was very emotional, tweeting, “My emotions running high right now… I’m thankful… I can’t stop crying”. The Ravens have already responded to Bryant joining the team, including tight end Mark Andrews. “Obviously, that’s kind of like an ‘OG’-type guy,” Andrews said about Bryant to ESPN. “He’s been around the league for a long, long time. He actually followed me on Twitter a year or two ago, so I’m excited to meet him, and I’m excited to be around him hopefully, and just learn.”

It is unclear when Bryant will play his first game with the Ravens. As a veteran in the game eager to make his return to the NFL, the Ravens will look to activate him within the next two games. Bryant has had a lot of success playing with the Cowboys. Though only appearing in three playoff games, Bryant is the all-time touchdown catch leader in Dallas Cowboys history. He was a fan favorite for years in Dallas for his size, speed, ability to jump and body control. However, since 2015 Bryant has struggled with injuries to his foot and knee that has decreased his performance, the Undefeated reports.

What impact will Bryant make to the Ravens?

The Ravens have struggled all year with the passing game. They rank last in the league in passing yards with 1,067, last in receptions with 104 and 24th in touchdown catches in 10. Though the Ravens are at 5-1 and are still a top pick for the Super Bowl, their passing game must improve.

Lamar Jackson’s passing yards and touchdown passing numbers have dropped since last season. Quarterback coach James Urban spoke about the ways the team can improve in the passing game after last week’s bye. “We’ve seen great stretches of consistency, and there’s been some throws we’d like to have back or some routes maybe we’d like to have back, and we’re working very hard on that,” said Urban to the Patriots News. “These next couple days, we’re going to spend some time getting some of those things cleaned up.”

Many NFL experts believe that signing Bryant to the practice squad can get Bryant familiar with the offensive system. Then they can activate him later in the season to see if he can help improve the Ravens’ poor passing game stats.

When Bryant does begin to play, the best scenario for the Ravens will be that he will become Jackson’s third target. He will also become a physical target who can win catches and increase their points per game, according to the Baltimore Ravens.

There is the scenario, however, that the move does work out and Bryant does not perform to his expectations. Being out of the league for almost three years and after suffering from so many injuries, it is hard to say if Bryant can return to the player he was when he was in Dallas. If it does not work out with the Ravens, they will still make the playoffs, but may see some struggles in the playoffs when they play against teams with the best defenses.

The Ravens right now should take the situation with Bryant day-by-day by having him practice with the team and get him familiar with the system. It may be too early to get him active for the game against the Steelers on Sunday, but there is a big chance he can be active on Nov. 8 against the Colts. Bryant has nine games to prove to the Ravens that he can become a key player and help bring the Ravens to the Super Bowl this season.

 

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