METAIRIE, La. — Officially, Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant stands 6-foot-2, 225 pounds.
Unofficially, his presence is much, much bigger.
Sunday, when the Saints (6-2) host the Cowboys in a showdown of NFC divisional leaders, New Orleans will have to figure out a way to contain Bryant.
His 51 catches are fourth in the NFL, his eight touchdowns are tied for fourth and his 705 yards are eighth.
“He’s explosive, he’ll block you and he’s a strong runner,” Saints rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro said
“That’s what jumps out on tape to me. Not so much quickness. He’s just an explosive player.”
Vaccaro, it should be noted, wasn’t a part of the Saints team that went into Dallas a season ago and earned a 34-31 overtime win.
It was in that game that Bryant had his career-best game. He caught nine passes for 224 yards and scored two touchdowns.
In other words, while Vaccaro might not know exactly what he’s up against, those still around from the 2012 season absolutely do.
And Bryant has their attention.
“He’s obviously one of the top guys in our league,” New Orleans cornerback Jabari Greer said. “He can present matchup problems. He can catch the ball and he’s one of the better receivers in the league. He’s a guy that you have to watch out for.”
Three times this season Bryant has crossed the century mark for receiving yards, going for 141 yards against the Chiefs, 141 against the Broncos and 110 versus the Eagles. Three times he has caught two touchdown passes in a game – against the Chargers, Broncos and Lions.
In his fourth year in the NFL, he’s turned into quarterback Tony Romo’s go-to receiver.
“You want to be judicious of where you are going when he has a number of people around him, at the same token you want to be able to get him the ball,” Romo said. “You do different things to get him in position to have some opportunities and then you go let him make the play.”
The Saints will throw a bevy of defenders to guard Bryant, but none will be as big as Bryant. Cornerback Keenan Lewis is the closest, registering 6-1, 208 pounds. Corey White is 6-1, 205 pounds. And Vaccaro is 6-0, 214 pounds. Everyone else is under 6-feet.
Then there’s the fact that Bryant is as good after the catch as anyone in the NFL right now. Pro Football Focus has him as the third-best in the league with 309 YAC yards.
Saints Coach Sean Payton knows this. He understands exactly what his defense is about to face on national TV.
“He’s very good – as good as anyone – at run after the catch,” Payton said. “He’s a hard guy to bring down, so I think that’s one of the things that you see in each game. His ability to take the ball and get yards after a reception is exceptional.”