Dez Bryant is averaging just 6.4 yards on seven punt returns thus far for the Dallas Cowboys, but the Ravens are treating the starting wide receiver and primary punt returner as if he’s the second coming of Devin Hester.
“Just explosive and trying to make the big plays,” linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo said of Bryant. “His legs just churn so fast and he can cut so well and so fast. He’s got big-play potential. So when he’s back there, you’ve definitely got to have all your alerts up and be ready.”
Ayanbadejo said Bryant reminds him of the Arizona Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson. Cornerback Chykie Brown, who is tied with Ayanbadejo for the team lead in special teams tackles with four, compared Bryant to the Cleveland Browns’ Joshua Cribbs.
“He turns into a running back after he gets the ball in his hands,” Brown said. “You can’t just throw your body in there because if you miss, the guy is shifty and he’s powerful. So you’ve got to come under control, ready to wrap up. If you can’t wrap him up, get him until your teammates come down there.”
Bryant, who became the Cowboys’ primary punt returner last season, ripped a 44-yard return in the team’s 16-10 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3, and Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said the unit won’t be lulled into thinking that playing wide receiver will tire Bryant.
“I think we all see in Dez Bryant what a fabulous athlete he is,” Rosburg said. “He’s a big, strong, fast guy that can change direction. In this league, it’s very rare that you get a week off in punt coverage. Every week, there’s really a good athlete back there that’s got the ball in his hands, and that’s why punt coverage is so important, that’s why the team aspect of it is so important … and this week is no different. We have to do a really good job with this player because he’s capable of great things.”