With the off-season only weeks away for the Buffalo Bills, it’s time to think about the future. Rookie sensation Josh Allen has quarterbacked his way into our hearts, but will need a stronger supporting cast for the Bills to realize their potential on offense. One of the anticipated building blocks has performed below his 2017 level. Let’s see what’s happening in the world of left tackle Dion Dawkins.
On 3rd-and-1 it’s all about straight forward. There’s no time for anything fancy. Using concepts similar to the Greek Phalanx, the offensive line works together to win what amounts to a highly strategic shoving match. Dion Dawkins and Wyatt Teller squeeze together to give Josh Allen a backup plan if he can’t extend over the falling Russell Bodine. Allen gets behind the Dawkins/Teller shove and gets the one yard needed for the first.
Ideally a lineman ends up shoving forward or to the front while move-blocking. Dawkins is faced with blocking Romeo Okwara who is trailing behind him (check out my opponent preview of Okwara if you haven’t already as I’ll reference it shortly). For a big man, that’s a pretty good amount of agility and coordination to slow Okwara down while turning and ultimately backpedaling. The camera angle makes it hard to tell that this is a really nice gain in large part thanks to Dawkins.
Dawkins is on the move again—this time to the second level to try to open up a hole. Dawkins makes a nice cut to seal off his man. While Marcus Murphy gets a decent gain here, it’s a couple extra yards if he sees the hole Dawkins made. If he had, he’d be on course for a head-on collision with Quandre Diggs. Despite Murphy being known as a bit of a bruising runner, he’s listed as five pounds lighter than Diggs. You gotta like his chances of getting some push, though, with a full head of steam and low stance.
Dion Dawkins has started getting a reputation for penalty flags, with ten assessed this season and three declined. He’s been a bit lucky in the declined department with two holding calls not counting in the stat book. Both were in this game. This wasn’t one of them, but could have been called. A lot of offensive holding calls aren’t technique as much as they are timing. Letting go before twisting or tackling an opponent is critical in avoiding the call. As Dawkins demonstrates here, he likes to hang on as long as he can. While it can get him in trouble, he actually recovers from an early loss on this snap. If it weren’t for Wyatt Teller becoming airborne, this is probably going to be a positive play.
You might have asked yourself why Josh Allen didn’t log his fourth 99+ yard rushing game in a row. The Detroit Lions were prepared for it and had their linebackers stay back to contain the running threat more than the last few opponents. Dawkins was left blocking no one on a good many plays—initially at least. Dawkins always finds someone to block and with a heaping ton of physics on his side whenever possible.
Dion Dawkins threw a couple cut blocks in this game and he’s certainly not been shy about it in other games either. Keep an eye on this tendency as it’s gotten him in trouble several times this season. Against the New York Jets he performed a cut block on an opponent that was already engaged with Wyatt Teller. That turns it into a chop block penalty, one which Jordan Jenkins didn’t appreciate. Dawkins also has three flags this year for rolling and hitting opponents with his leg while cut blocking. Not only do these plays hurt the team directly via penalty yardage, Dawkins’s reputation around the league likely isn’t being helped. There’s nothing to suggest Dawkins is a dirty player and it’s a safe bet he’ll be working with coaches to clean up these plays.
In my preview of Romeo Okwara I noted that he lacked a good enough bull rush to get through Dawkins that way, and I suspected his hand fighting wouldn’t be sufficient either. Lateral agility was another story however. Okwara is likely going to pushed away from Allen until he dips and uses his feet to cut in. Dawkins was doing a respectable job despite the awkward positioning from the initial contact. Okwara looks off-kilter, but his footwork leads to a quarterback hit.
This was a large chunk of the day. Okwara leads the Lions in sacks, but Dawkins was able to keep him from adding to his total. Okwara rarely got a good push and his hand fighting didn’t produce either. Against the Lions—and Okwara specifically—Dawkins provided good pass protection for Josh Allen.
And here’s that sidestep. Dawkins was noticeably worse in run support where defenders look to pull of these kinds of moves. A shimmy to the left followed by a quick change of direction completely freed Okwara to make the tackle.