There is no question in my mind that Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant is a top five wide-receiver in the NFL. A physical freak as Bryant stands 6-2 and 220 pounds, he will surely make plays when his number is called. And with the 49ers having no cornerback that can match up with him one-on-one, look for 49ers DC Vic Fangio to devise a scheme to give those cornerbacks help.
Since Scott Linehan’s arrival, the Cowboys have seen more of an aerial attack. A coach that favors the passing game more than the run, you can see Linehan’s stamp on the team during this year’s preseason. The former Offensive Coordinator for the Detroit Lions prior to joining the Cowboys this year, it will be Linehan’s play-calling as the team’s Passing Game Coordinator that will keep the 49ers secondary busy. So why will Bryant have a big game? Despite him being a “beast” on the field (which is a term often overused) it’s Linehan who will put him in the best position to make plays.
While with the Detroit Lions, Linehan often moved WR Calvin Johnson around to keep defenses honest. And that same ideological approach will be used with Bryant. I’ve been evaluating the Cowboys preseason and in the Miami Dolphins game (3rd game of preseason), Bryant was lined up in many positions. Whether playing the flanker to run a 4-route (curl-route) for a first-down or lined up at split-end to get outside the numbers one-on-one with a cornerback, Bryant was used in many ways during that game to make plays between the 20’s.
Realizing this attack, do not be surprised if Fangio tells his corners to play off-man while playing outside leverage which allows inside help from the linebackers and over-the-top help from the safeties. Fangio rarely shies away from his complex cover-2 scheme but he may need to add a few wrinkles on Sunday as Bryant will surely get his catches and have a big game.
I’m not saying that 49ers CB Chris Culliver or CB Tramaine Brock can’t get the job done, but let’s be honest, if they’re matched up one-on-one with Bryant, odds are Bryant will win more times than not. Fangio, I’m sure understands this mismatch and will basically contain Bryant by allowing him to eat up that six-yard cushion on early downs in order to prevent getting beat over the top. And if Bryant lines up in the slot with first-round pick (No. 30) DB Jimmie Ward starring across from him, that should bode well for Bryant as Ward has trouble sinking his hips on those 2-route quick slants.
With the 49ers secondary having their hands full on Week 1, look for Bryant to have a big game as I predict him to have a stat line around 8 catches for 100 receiving yards and one touchdown. So if Bryant is on your fantasy team, be happy fantasy owners as Bryant will be your Week 1 fantasy stud!