The Buffalo Bills did much more than just free themselves of $4.85 million in cap space while moving up in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft with Monday’s trade of former franchise left tackle Cordy Glenn. Buffalo also delivered a crystal clear message to Dion Dawkins: the left tackle spot belongs to the promising rookie from Temple University.
The talents of Glenn, the second-round draft pick out of the University of Georgia, have never been in question. The Bills led the league in rushing yards per game in 2016 (164.4 yards per game) with a healthy Glenn starting 11 games on the left side of the line.
Glenn signed a five-year, $65 million deal ($36 million guaranteed) with the Bills in May of 2017. But Glenn dealt with a foot and ankle injury going back to the preseason, along with a back injury, and was only on the field for 275 snaps in 2017 before being placed on the season-ending injured reserve list.
Glenn did start the first two games of the season, but sustained a high ankle sprain in a Week 2 loss to the Carolina Panthers. While Glenn was in the starting lineup through a Week 9 loss to the New York Jets, Dawkins wound up starting 11 games during his rookie season and made an instant impact on Buffalo’s coaching staff.
Entering his second year, Dawkins told The Buffalo News that he is eager to embrace the challenge of taking over as Buffalo’s starting left tackle.
“I actually feel great that the coaches are trusting me this early in my career,” said Dawkins. “The one thing that I can say that I think that I do best is I play through the whistle. I know that coach McDermott likes that style, that nasty mentality. I’m guessing that shocked coach as a young player, that I brought that to the table.”
That skill set included being above-average in run blocking, as well as holding his own in pass protection. While seeing consistent playing time, Dawkins allowed only three sacks while being on the field for 781 snaps, roughly 75 percent of the team’s offensive plays.
None of the sacks Dawkins allowed came after Week 5. His steadying play earned Dawkins the No. 10 ranking from Pro Football Focus among left tackles as a rookie.
“I just know that this business is different and stuff happens every day,” he said. “I have to be ready for whatever is coming my way. I hope that the coaches trust me enough. I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing.”
Glenn allowed only one sack in 397 pass-blocking snaps before an injury sidelined him for five games in 2016. Pro Football Focus gave Glenn an 82.8 grade, good for 22nd among all offensive tackles, setting the stage for the contract extension.
Dawkins said he made the most of every opportunity to learn from Glenn, and that those lessons learned will serve him well in his new role as the starting left tackle.
“Cordy is a great player. He’s one of the best tackles in the league. From a young guy coming in, knowing exactly who Cordy Glenn is, that helped me. I watched how he got ready for practice,” Dawkins said. ”I have a high, high respect level for Cordy. Coming in as a young guy, guys could be stuck up or like, ‘forget that rookie.’ Cordy embraced me with open arms. ... Seeing that, knowing that I was a competitor at tackle, meant something to me, that Cordy cared more about the team than himself.”
In the Glenn deal, the Bills will ship Glenn and two draft picks (No. 21 in the first round and No. 158 in the fifth round) to the Bengals for pick No. 12 in the first round and pick No. 187 in the sixth round.