Dez Bryant: From Ravens luxury to a critical catch?

Nov 22, 2020; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) celebrates a scoring drive with teammates on the bench during the game against the Tennessee Titans at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Dez Bryant signed with the Baltimore Ravens, with many viewing it as a potential luxury addition for a Super Bowl contender. With Baltimore’s offense struggling and now missing multiple starts due to a COVID-19 outbreak, Bryant will be critical for the Ravens in Week 12.

Baltimore enters Week 12 at a pivotal point in its season. Sitting on the playoff bubble at an unexpected 6-4 record, largely due to a disappointing offense, this team was already in desperate need of someone to step up.

If losing three of their last four games wasn’t enough reason for concern, the Ravens will be without 23 players on Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers. With a depleted roster, Baltimore needs Dez Bryant to turn back the clock and return to glory.

Bryant has bounced around between the team’s active roster and practice squad this season. With the team in need of offensive weaponry for Week 12, he was signed to the active roster on Saturday.

After two years out of the NFL, Bryant made his return in Week 9 against the Indianapolis Colts. Unfortunately, the former Pro Bowl receiver only played two snaps and went without a target. Thanks to the NFL’s COVID-19 rules, he was allowed to be activated off the practice squad for a second time with a shot to earn a standard contract.

Presented another opportunity to prove himself, Dez Bryant showed the Ravens what he is capable of.

Dez Bryant effective in first extended action

The Ravens gave Bryant some time to shine in Week 11 against the Tennessee Titans. Even on a day when the offense wasn’t at its peak form, the veteran receiver made a strong impression. He even came through in the clutch, hauling in a 16-yard catch-and-run to help set up Baltimore’s game-tying field goal late in the fourth quarter, which forced overtime.

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Even a vintage era Bryant may not be able to help this offense against one of the NFL’s best defenses. Pittsburgh will blitz like crazy, especially with Robert Griffin III starting at multiple starts on the offensive line sidelined. Even if Baltimore can’t win on Tuesday night, they do need Bryant to step up.

Baltimore Ravens’ NFL Schedule offers hope

Baltimore’s schedule is very favorable after Week 12, if the Ravens can restore some measure of health.

  • Week 13: vs. Dallas Cowboys
  • Week 14: @ Cleveland Browns
  • Week 15: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Week 16: vs. New York Giants
    Week 17: @ Cincinnati Bengals

With tight end Nick Boyle sidelined by a season-ending knee injury, Baltimore could use another big target to convert first downs and make plays in the red zone. Not only can Bryant provide that, but he should also be a steadying influence to Baltimore’s young receiving corps. That could be just as important, given 2019 first-round pick Marquise “Hollywood” Brown isn’t living up to expectations.

Bryant made his NFL debut with the Cowboys in 2010 and quickly evolved into one of the game’s top wide-outs. He turned in three consecutive 1,200+-yard seasons between 2012 and 2014, scoring 41 touchdowns over that time frame. All of that experience can be valuable to young receivers.

Emotional departure from the Dallas Cowboys

Dez Bryant’s time in Dallas ended abruptly in 2018, when the team released him in a cap-saving move. It reflected the NFL’s nature as a business, but it wasn’t a decision the team took lightly.

“As an organization, we hold Dez Bryant in the highest regard, and we are grateful for his passion, spirit and contributions to this team for the past eight years,” Jerry Jones said, via statement. “He will always be a valued member of our family.”

Bryant finished his Cowboys’ career with 531 receptions for 7,471 yards and 73 touchdowns. Looking to revitalize his career in a new home, he signed with the New Orleans Saints in November 2018. Sadly, he tore his Achilles’ tendon in his first practice.

He sat out all of 2018 and 2019 as he rehabbed. The 32-year-old’s chances at a comeback were slim, given his age and injury history, but he got himself into excellent shape and impressed with his workouts. There was even talk of a possible return to Dallas, but Baltimore’s long-standing interest made a difference.

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The Ravens hope that foresight will pay off with a big stretch run from Bryant with him assisting the team in its quest to return to the playoffs. It will be even more special if he has a big game in Week 13 when he faces the Cowboys for the first time.