The Buffalo Bills selected offensive lineman Dion Dawkins toward the end of the second round in the 2017 NFL Draft (63rd overall). With incumbent tackle Cordy Glenn locked in on the left side, the rookie was widely hoped to take over the right tackle position at some point. An injury left Glenn less than his usual stellar self, and as a result, Dawkins filled in for three-quarters of the season.
Dawkins received a good deal of praise manning the left side. Possibly the highest praise came when the Bills traded Cordy Glenn to the Cincinnati Bengals, indicating they felt they were comfortable at the position without him. Now that Dawkins seems to be the lock on the left, what are we looking at for the 2018 season?
On this play, Dion Dawkins shows good recognition of the play call. He helps chip Kyle Love and then slips out to block at the next level in case the ball comes to Charles Clay (which it does). This block adds quite a few yards after the catch as Dawkins drives his man to the sideline. What’s even more impressive is that Cordy Glenn started the game and Dawkins came in after the half. Despite coming in as a substitute, he shows good awareness on just his seventh play of the game.
Offensive lines work best when everyone involved is on the same page. As Dawkins moves forward, he bumps Corey Liuget on his way through, which helps Richie Incognito wipe out his man. He then dominates Korey Toomer. When locked in, Dawkins routinely overpowers linebackers, and as seen here, he reaches their level quickly. It’s unfortunate the play moves right. Take a look at the left side and all that space.
Although it’s brief, Dawkins is holding his own in the strength department with Joey Bosa. When it turned into a shoving match, Dawkins played extremely well. Bosa has a little more finesse than Dawkins, and as Dion moves his left hand to alter his leverage, Bosa takes advantage and does a compact swim move, which pulls Dawkins off balance. Bosa can’t completely disengage, which is a big positive for Dawkins. This is a great microcosm of the day between these two.
The Los Angeles Chargers bring quite a bit to the table to test a rookie tackle, and Melvin Ingram gave Dawkins quite a bit to handle. A brief hesitation in Ingram’s step combines with some nice work with the hands to blow right by Dawkins. As you’d expect with a first-year player, Dawkins doesn’t seem to have an answer for every trick in the book yet. Speed and finesse can cause him fits. When engaged with an opponent, Dawkins’ hand fighting is solid and can recover if given a chance using his power. The stutter step here is a big reason this goes down as a complete loss.
Dawkins is matched up with Alex Okafor here and the result speaks for itself. Okafor didn’t stand a chance as Dawkins initiates contact low and drives his man back once that initial shove sent him backpedaling. If you’re curious as to the ceiling of Dawkins’ strength and balance, note that Okafor tries to shove him at the end of the play and it’s hard to tell in real time that there’s any effect whatsoever to Dawkins.
Take the following with a grain of salt. This is against Deatrich Wise Jr., who was also playing his first season. Wise Jr. has not refined his hands as of yet, which is typical of a rookie defensive end. However, Dawkins holds steady throughout the entire play (a slowly shrinking pocket should be considered a victory, let alone this). Dawkins’s left hand briefly disengages to punch at Wise Jr., which has the effect of momentarily popping Wise Jr.’s right hand off Dawkins and preventing Wise Jr. from maintaining solid balance. Right at the end of the punch, he reestablishes a hold on the jersey. Dawkins’s right hand never budges. Wise Jr. counters well and removes Dawkins’s hands, but he still has trouble breaking free entirely as Dawkins plays through the whistle.