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Dez Bryant is like Michael Irvin, Mike Zimmer says

The Dallas Cowboys drafted Dez Bryant and handed him Michael Irvin's No. 88 jersey for one simple reason: They want him to follow in those footsteps.

That hasn't come easily for Bryant. The wide receiver's streaky on-field performance and off-field issues have made him more of a headache than a savior at times, but his recent play is encouraging.

Bryant has 26 catches for 388 yards and five touchdowns over the past three games, and the Cincinnati Bengals -- who host the Cowboys on Sunday -- have taken notice.

"He really reminds me in a lot of ways of Michael Irvin," Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer told The Dallas Morning News.

"The way he can go get the football, his acceleration, his run after catch, his strength, you know Michael was great. He used to push guys off. Dez seems like he has great strength when running routes in press.

"He's made some unbelievable catches on back shoulder fades that (Tony) Romo has thrown to him. In the Redskins game, he caught that ball and ran about 65 yards. He turned on the jets on that one. I think he's a tremendous football player. They have a lot of talent there."

The Cowboys' receivers have struggled at times to adjust their routes and get open for quarterback Tony Romo. Bryant has improved on that front this season, and he's a more disciplined player than ever.

That's one step in the right direction toward Bryant becoming the next Michael Irvin in Dallas.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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