For Cowboys receivers, it all starts with Dez Bryant

With training camp starting next week in Oxnard, California, we offer up a position-by-position preview.


Who's back: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Devin Street, Reggie Dunn

Who they added: A.J. Jenkins (free agent), Lucky Whitehead (undrafted free agent), Nick Harwell (undrafted free agent), George Farmer (undrafted free agent), Deontay Greenberry (undrafted free agent), Antwan Goodley (undrafted free agent)

Who's gone: Dwayne Harris

Roster spots available: Four, five or six

Key question: How good can Dez Bryant be?

A week ago the key question might have been: How will this offense look if Bryant doesn't show up to training camp? But Bryant signed his five-year, $70 million deal before the franchise tag deadline, so that changes the biggest question.

The deal freed the Cowboys from their only potential camp-long headache. It also put more faith in Bryant not only financially but off the field. The Cowboys used the standard language in a player contract regarding forfeiture. They received assurances from Bryant's representation, Roc Nation, that there would be an off-field plan in place to make sure Bryant continues to avoid issues that cropped up his first two years.

All of it means Brant could have a monster season, even without the benefit of an offseason program.

We know Bryant will produce. He has had three straight seasons with at least 80 catches, 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns. He led the NFL last season with 16 touchdown catches. He is a nightmare for cornerbacks because of his size and strength. He can run through defenders. He can run by defenders. He has been everything the Cowboys had hoped he would be when they took him in the first round in 2010.

After signing a monster contract in 2011, Larry Fitzgerald had the second-most receiving yards of his career (1,411). After signing his monster contract in 2012, Calvin Johnson posted career highs in catches (129) and yards (1,964).

Bryant would need 94 catches, 1,383 yards and 17 touchdowns to surpass his personal bests in those categories in 2015.

Possible? Absolutely.

Quick thought: The coaches raved about the work Terrance Williams put in during the offseason with Bryant absent from the on-field work. They saw a committed player, who took on more of a leadership role for the entire group. He also played multiple positions, which should be a bonus as the Cowboys look to move Bryant around the formation more or if Bryant was hurt.

Williams caught 44 passes as a rookie for 736 yards and five touchdowns. Last year he caught 37 passes for 621 yards and eight touchdowns while starting every game.

How much more production can the Cowboys get out of Williams. With Bryant as the No. 1 receiver and Jason Witten always a factor in the passing game, putting up mega numbers as the Cowboys' second receiver is difficult. In 2012 Miles Austin caught 66 passes for 943 yards and six touchdowns. Those would be excellent numbers for Williams, but what Austin did came before the Cowboys showed a true commitment to the running game and the ascent of Cole Beasley.

It's quite possible that Williams can be a better player but only have modest statistics.