Patrick Daugherty

Football Daily Dose

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Dez's Destiny

Friday, September 16, 2011

It had all the makings of an arrival game.

Less than five minutes after going over the middle for a 42-yard grab on Dallas’ third play from scrimmage, Dez Bryant overpowered and out-jumped Antonio Cromartie for a three-yard touchdown.

The Cowboys had struck first in their showdown opening night with the Jets, and had their often mercurial, sometimes injured and always electrifying 2010 first-round pick to thank.

Like any noteworthy event these days, the effort lit up Twitter, with fans and experts alike heralding the arrival of perhaps the game’s new best receiver.

Only then the magic stopped. Just one series after his score, Bryant fielded a T.J. Conley punt, returning it 12 yards. It was a highly uneventful play, or so it seemed.

In the process, Bryant took a helmet to his quad, rendering him unable to go full speed for the rest of the evening. He would make one more breathtaking play on Dallas’ next series, skying over the league’s best defensive back Darrelle Revis for a 26-yard sideline grab, but then essentially turned invisible as the Cowboys settled in for a dogfight on national T.V.

It was a familiar scenario. Just three weeks after turning in his first 100-yard performance last season, Bryant was lost for the year after breaking his ankle on a kick return.

Two steps forward, one special teams aided step back for one of the NFL’s most gifted young players. Predictably, with encouragement from owner Jerry Jones, the Cowboys have decided to scale back their superstar in the making’s use on special teams. Less predictable, however, is if it will have any effect on the frequency with which Bryant gets hurt.  

As for this week, Bryant has yet to practice but will almost certainly give it a go against the 49ers. He played through the injury for three quarters on Sunday, after all.

As for the season? It’s clear it will belong to Dez Bryant if he’s able to stay on the field. What’s not clear is if he will.   
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So you're telling me there's a chance? That’s what Steven Jackson (quad) did on Wednesday when he refused to rule himself out for Monday Night Football against the Giants.

From many players, this would be an empty statement. Everyone thinks they will play until they don’t. From Jackson — who, in no particular order, has played through groin, finger, hamstring, leg, back, hip and ankle injuries in addition to more than one quad ailment during his seven-year career — it’s something.

If he does play, it will almost surely be without the benefit of any practice time this week, and as a true game-time decision. That means leaving him in your lineup on Sunday morning probably isn't a gamble not worth taking, especially if you have any depth at all at running back.

After disgruntled fantasy owners weighed in for a nearly a week with their complaints about James Jones', one-catch, one-target performance in Green Bay’s Week 1 win over the Saints, Jones finally did the same on Thursday. "I'm not selfish; I understand we've got a lot of weapons, so I'm not saying I want the ball every play,” Jones said. “But I think I deserve to be on the field more than I was. And I want to say half of (the snaps I took) were ‘jumbo’ run plays. I'm here, I practice hard, work hard, do what I've got to do and hopefully the opportunities come my way."

Packers WRs coach Edgar Bennett heard his wideout’s words and responded with encouragement instead of anger. "When your opportunities come, take full advantage of it," Bennett said. "And for (Jones), they'll come." Good news for those looking from contributions from Jones in deeper leagues.

That is, if you choose to ignore another Thursday report from Packers’ beat writer Tom Silverstein, who passed along his belief that Jordy Nelson has “firmly grabbed hold of the Packers' No. 3 receiver position.”

Jones was targeted 23 more times than Nelson last season, but the scales apparently tipped during Nelson’s dominant playoff run (21 catches for 286 yards in four games compared to Jones’ 11 for 144).

If you used a late-round pick on Jones and have decided to remain patient, excellent. Patience is a virtue. But don’t be surprised if in this case patience only ends up earning you a few more zero-point days before you drop Jones and look to a depleted waiver wire for a replacement.

The only thing worse than injury keeping a player out of a practice is an injury that comes out of nowhere keeping a player out of practice.

That was the case with Steve Johnson on Thursday, who sat out with an apparently lingering groin ailment. Buffalo’s No. 1 receiver didn’t appear encumbered in Week 1’s vanquishing of the Chiefs, making four catches for 66 yards and a score on six targets, so he should be ready to take on the Raiders on Sunday. His situation will be one to monitor through the weekend, however.

Darrius Heyward-Bey took a rare step forward against the Broncos on Monday, making four catches for 44 yards as he led the Raiders with seven targets in the absence of Jacoby Ford (who went down in the third quarter), Louis Murphy and Chaz Schilens.

That could only mean one thing: it was time for third-year pro to take a step back, which is exactly what he did on Thursday when he was unable to finish practice due to knee pain.

For now, the injury is believed to be minor, and no tests are scheduled. But in case you wanted another reason not to take a flier on the stone-handed burner, you’ve got it.   

“I felt I took a huge step forward." Those were the words of Arian Foster (hamstring) after practice on Thursday. He will play on Sunday against the Dolphins. … The news was less positive for Brandon Lloyd (groin) and Knowshon Moreno (hamstring), who both appear in danger of missing Week 2. … One day after being a surprise entry on the Browns’ injury report with a hamstring issue, Mohamed Massaquoi fully participated in practice on Thursday, and should be ready to serve as Cleveland’s No. 1 wideout (if there is such a thing) against the Colts. … Harry Douglas (concussion) participated in Falcons practice in limited fashion on Thursday, a good sign he’s passed his baseline test and will be ready to suit up against the Eagles. … A “long shot” to take the field against Pittsburgh according to his coach, plan to again be without Sidney Rice. … Lee Evans must be a quick healer. One day after sitting out with a protective boot on his injured ankle, the veteran deep threat was able to go "full tilt” on Thursday. He’ll play this weekend.

Patrick Daugherty is a football and baseball writer for He can be found on Twitter .
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