Star Evaluation: Dez Bryant Finished 2016 Season Strong After Battling Injury | Dallas Cowboys

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The roster turnover has begun. Free agency is here, and the 2017 NFL Draft isn’t far behind it. Over the next two months, the Cowboys will lose and replace a sizable portion of their roster.

For every new face, however, there are dozens of familiar ones that will return to begin a new campaign. From established veterans to second-year players, the vast majority of the Cowboys’ 2017 team is already on the roster. In the coming weeks, the staff of DallasCowboys.com will preview those players, analyzing where they’ve been and where they’re going.

The series continues with Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant.

What’s Been Good: Bryant made his third career Pro Bowl despite the third-lowest catch total of his seven-year career (50). The reason? He was the big-play threat for rookie starting quarterback Dak Prescott and one of the league’s most dynamic and efficient offenses. The Cowboys ranked fifth in scoring offense (26.3 points per game) and total offense (376.7 yards per game), and Bryant led the team with eight touchdown catches in only 12 complete starts (he sat out most of the Week 17 finale with playoff homefield advantage locked up). He also produced a career-high 15.9 yards per catch in 2016, markedly above his career 14.3 average.

What’s Been Bad: For the second straight year, injuries derailed Bryant’s momentum in the middle of the season. In 2015, foot and knee ailments limited him to a career-low nine games and 31 catches. In 2016, he missed three games in October (at San Francisco, Cincinnati, at Green Bay) with a hairline fracture in his knee. Bryant returned for the Oct. 30 overtime thriller against Philadelphia and delivered 113 receiving yards and a touchdown in the Cowboys’ dramatic come-from-behind victory. He would start every game for the rest of the season.

2016 Highlight: The final score was disappointing, but Bryant played arguably his best game in the Cowboys’ 34-31 divisional-round home loss to the Packers. His nine catches for 132 yards were season-best totals, and his two touchdowns tied a season best. In the second quarter Bryant caught a 40-yard TD from Prescott that cut into the Packers’ 21-3 lead and started the Cowboys’ rally. His fourth-quarter TD and Prescott’s two-point conversion tied the score at 28-28 with just over four minutes remaining.

What’s Next: Signed through 2019, the 28-year-old Bryant will continue as a focal point in the offseason. With Terrance Williams and Brice Butler re-signed this offseason, Prescott has his full complement of receivers from 2016 back under contract.

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