Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 11/5/11
Playing a pickup game of football in the street and battling through four quarters in the NFL have very few similarities. In the NFL, there are no Buicks to run past and no maple trees marking where to break off a route. As Dallas Cowboys linebacker Bradie James said Wednesday, the NFL is "big boy football." And in "big boy football" wide receivers can't rely on just running past their opponent. They must follow the playbook. That is the aspect that seems to be missing from Dez Bryant's game. Bryant has undoubtedly reached the NFL by running past the Buick. He's been so much better than his opponent that he could excel with just using his amazing athleticism and determination. However, during his sophomore season, the first round pick hasn't looked elite in more than a standard go route or jump ball situation. One of his best plays this season came in a Week 3 victory over the Washington Redskins. A third-and-21 play broke down, so Tony Romo pointed for Bryant to simply go deep and it worked. Bryant beat Redskins corner DeAngelo Hall down the middle as Romo lofted a pass to the 6-foot-2, 218-pounder. The play resulted in a 30-yard gain and led to the game-winning field goal. But that play doesn't happen often on Sundays. Knowing the playbook and successfully executing all the routes are what will allow Bryant to reach his potential. While speaking with media members on Friday, Bryant was asked if he had full understanding of the Cowboys playbook. "I feel like, if I had to put a percentage on it, I feel like probably 100 percent," Bryant said, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "Minor mistakes here and there, but it's not like I don't know what I'm doing. I know what I'm doing." A few of Romo's interceptions this season say otherwise. But maybe that just comes with the process. After all, Bryant just turned 23 on Friday. Maybe he'll improve on the little things and become the complete package a receiver like Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald. Heck, maybe he'll even have his name added to the Ring of Honor like "The Original No. 88" is having done on Sunday. His potential is certainly of that caliber. But reaching those heights will only happen if he is a student of the game, which means putting in the extra work when nobody is watching. "It's getting there," Bryant said. "It's a learning experience. I have a long time in my career. I'm still learning. Even five or six years down the road, I'll still be learning. I just have to wait and be patient just like everybody else." Follow Jon Machota on Twitter: @jonmachota
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