Patriots look ahead to dealing with WR Bryant

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Patriots look ahead to dealing with WR Bryant

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.comFOXBORO -- In April 2010, the Patriots had a chance to draft Dez Bryant, arguably the most explosive player coming out of college. Holding the 22nd pick, New England traded with Denver to get out of that selection. Then sitting at 24, the Patriots made a deal with the Dallas Cowboys to move back to the 27th spot. Dallas took Bryant. The Patriots took cornerback Devin McCourty and, with the third-round pick they acquired, New England also grabbed Taylor Price. Plenty believed the Patriots were in more desperate need of an offensive complement than another corner. Especially after the 2009 season devolved into Tom Brady pummeling passes at Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Bryant seemed a sensible pickup.Sunday, Bryant and McCourty will match up a few times at Gillette Stadium as the Cowboys visit. Bryant has certainly had his on-field moments for Dallas -- two punt return-touchdowns in 2010, an explosive stretch from Week 6 through Week 10 where he caught 23 balls for 326 yards and four touchdowns. But he's also battled back, ankle (sprain and a break) and quad injuries that cost him games last year and made him look useless at times this year. McCourty, who was brilliant in 2010 but spotty through the first three games of this season, is back on the uptick. But Bryant will posea familiar problem to the Patriots' DBs. He's tall, strong and can leap -- the wideout type that's been hard for New England to hold in check. "Big, strong receiver," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. "Catches the ball well. Had a couple of punt returns last year that went the distance. He can run, he can break tackles, he's good with the ball in his hands, big target. I don't know how you can overthrow the guy, he's built like a tight end. He's big, he's strong, he's got good speed, returns kicks."Throught the first three weeks of the season, the Patriots saw five receivers similar to Bryant in size and athleticism. Brandon Marshall, Malcom Floyd, Vincent Jackson, David Nelson and Donald Jones combined for 30 catches for 555 yards. On one hand, that's an awful track record. On the other, the Patriots corners and coaching staff should presumably improve in dealing with these types of players. "Seems like we've got one every week or more than one in some cases," Belichick agreed when asked if the treetop wideouts the team has seen help them prepare. "Through the course of the season and even through the preseason, you've probably seen the fast guys, the quick guys, the big guys, the run-after-catch guys, the guys that are real good blockers, crack blockers, reverse guys. It's good for us. We see that in practice too." All those reps in games and during practice -- Chad Ochocinco and Aaron Hernandez would be the best Patriots comps for those big receivers -- should have an impact. "We emphasize that a lot," Belichick said, referring to the practice of comparing techniques from previous gamesto the ones coming up."And that transcends every play." Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran