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Dez Bryant will train with route guru to polish his game

Dez Bryant has yet to sit down with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to discuss his future with the franchise.

Now that the first wave of free agency has come and gone without a marquee wide receiver landing in Dallas, however, Bryant is working to improve his standing with the team.

On the heels of a disappointing 2017 season, Bryant plans to train with personal wide receivers coach David Robinson next month, NFL Network's Jane Slater recently reported.

The regimen is the wideout's equivalent to the offseason tweaks and tune-ups that quarterbacks undergo with noted passing gurus such as Tom House, Adam Dedeaux, George Whitfield and Jordan Palmer. Among the players benefitting from Robinson's tutelage to date: Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jordan Reed and Cowboys teammate Brice Butler.

Asked for details on the upcoming workouts, Robinson told Slater that he would concentrate on expansion of Bryant's route tree, shaking defenders at the line of scrimmage and improving footwork technique to compensate for natural loss of speed due to the aging process.

Robinson's program reads like a checklist of criticisms encountered by Bryant during an ongoing streak of 23 consecutive regular-season games without a 100-yard performance.

It's especially noteworthy that the three-time Pro Bowl selection is working with a route guru after NFL Network analyst Steve Smith highlighted Bryant's shortcomings in that area prior to a late-November game last season.

"One thing that I've noticed with top-tier guys, they have a Ph.D. in route running," Smith explained. "They can run every route on the route tree. With Dez as he's becoming older ... you have to be able to run all of those routes because your speed, you lose a step a little bit, you're not as fast as you used to be when you were twentysomething."

Smith clarified that Bryant is typically limited to three routes: a push-off hitch, a jumpball go and a slant.

After listening to Slater's report, KRLD-FM's The Ben & Skin Show in Dallas-Fort Worth reached out to Robinson for further insight on his plans to transform Bryant from a limited jumpball specialist into a well-rounded route technician.

Bryant still shows a lot of explosiveness in and out of cuts at age 29, Robinson insists, but the Cowboys' scheme has concentrated primarily on routes that emphasize his strengths. In other words, Bryant's skillset has grown rusty, necessitating workouts that will "wake that muscle memory up," allowing him to sink his hips, sharpen the top of his routes and refine press-release techniques.

"In my opinion, I definitely think that Dez can run the whole complete route tree," Robinson added. "He just hasn't been asked to do so. And I believe they also need to move him around a bit, too: outside, put him in the slot some because he's a mismatch to a lot of defenders."

Will Cowboys coaches follow through on that prescription to expand Bryant's role? Will offseason and training-camp practices encourage quarterback Dak Prescott to place greater trust in his nominal No. 1 target's ability to separate from coverage?

Bryant is facing as much scrutiny as any wideout in 2018. While he deserves credit for going above and beyond to polish his skills, skepticism will hound him until he proves that a nine-year veteran can learn new tricks to extend the prime of his career.

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