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Buffalo Bills tackles could overachieve in 2018 behind Dion Dawkins

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Second-year man Dion Dawkins impressed the Bills so much they shipped out Cordy Glenn.

Going into the 2017 NFL season, Buffalo Bills fans had hoped that Cordy Glenn could return from injury to man the left side while newly-selected rookie Dion Dawkins could slide in at right tackle and solidify the team’s offensive line. That didn’t happen.

Glenn struggled to recover from his foot and ankle injury, forcing Dawkins to the left side where he performed admirably. This offseason, Glenn was shipped out as the Bills moved up the draft board to select their quarterback of the future. It’s now Dawkins who is entrenched on the left side with question marks at the right tackle spot.

In our latest look at the state of the Bills roster, we look at all of Buffalo’s offensive tackles, where a group ox experienced and inexperienced players could overachieve as they compete.

*All sack and penalty data courtesy of FOX Sports

Dion Dawkins

  • Contract status: signed; $950,736 cap hit
  • Age: Turned 24 on 4/26/18
  • 2017 Playing time: 781 snaps (74.24% of offensive snaps), 62 ST snaps (14.19%)
  • Key 2017 statistics: 3 penalties, 30 yards, 3 sacks allowed

To paraphrase our man Skarecrow, Dion Dawkins was pretty good in 2017, but he’s no Cordy Glenn. The second round pick out of Temple University had some growing pains during his rookie season, but overall he was just fine on the offensive line. If there is one silver lining in Glenn’s injury, it’s that Dawkins was given plenty of on-the-job training that he otherwise may never have had.

The bigger problem for Dawkins won’t be his inexperience, it will be the change at left guard. Instead of veteran Pro Bowler Richie Incognito on his hip, it’s looking like it will be Vlad Ducasse lining up next to him, which will certainly change the dynamic.

Jordan Mills

  • Contract status: $2.15 million cap hit ($1.95 million cap savings if cut)
  • Age: Will turn 28 on 12/24/18
  • 2017 Playing time: 1,023 snaps (97.24% of offensive snaps), 62 ST snaps (14.19%)
  • Key 2017 statistics: 6 penalties, 50 yards, 6 sacks allowed

Mills struggled in pass protection, as his lack of athleticism was routinely exposed against quick, agile speed rushers. He doesn’t achieve consistent push in the run game, either, and he has been a clear weak link on the offensive line for the better part of the past two seasons. One thing he does have going for him, though, is good health, as he has been among the Bills’ leaders in snaps played for two consecutive seasons.

With the trade of Glenn, Mills has been taking almost every snap as the starting right tackle this offseason. If one of the other players on the list can step up and take the starting job, Mills might still make the roster as the team’s top backup.

Conor McDermott

  • Contract status: signed; $555,000 cap hit
  • Age: Will turn 26 on 10/19/18
  • 2017 Playing time: 1 snap (.1% of offensive total), 15 ST snaps (3.43%)
  • Key 2017 statistics: N/A

After coming over from the New England Patriots, McDermott spent most of the season inactive on game days. At 6’8” and 305 pounds, he is ridiculously agile for his size, having completed the three-cone drill in 7.52 seconds at the 2017 NFL Draft Combine (for comparison, Dion Dawkins did the drill in 7.3 seconds). He has intriguing potential as a swing tackle if Buffalo moves on from either Mills. They kept him on the roster all year despite needing bodies elsewhere so they must value him.

Marshall Newhouse

  • Contract status: signed a one-year, $1.5 million dead this offseason ($1 million cap savings if cut)
  • Age: Will turn 30 on 9/29/18
  • 2017 Playing time: 842 snaps (83.53% of offensive total), 43 ST snaps (10.05%) for the Oakland Raiders
  • Key 2017 statistics: 4 penalties, 25 yards plus 8 sacks allowed for Oakland

Coming in with lots of experience, Newhouse has been cross-training at multiple positions on the offensive line to increase his value and the likelihood he sticks on the 53-man roster. They paid him enough where they consider him a legitimate contender to make the team, but he was sub-par in Oakland a year ago. He has started 70 games in the league and brings experience, so there is some value, but he’ll have to earn it.

De’Ondre Wesley

  • Contract status: signed a two-year, $1.2 million contract this offseason ($555,000 cap hit in 2018)
  • Age: Will turn 26 on 7/28/18
  • 2017 Playing time: N/A
  • Key 2017 statistics: N/A

Wesley spent the entire 2017 season on the Bills practice squad. He appeared in five games for the Baltimore Ravens in 2015 as a UDFA where he played six snaps on offense and 25 on special teams. He spent 2016 on IR and was cut by Baltimore after training camp in 2017.

Josh James

  • Contract status: signed; $480,000 cap hit on reserve/future contract
  • Age: Turned 25 on 5/9/18
  • 2017 Playing time: N/A
  • Key 2017 statistics: N/A

James has never appeared in an NFL game, entering the league in 2016 after graduating from Carroll College in Montana. At 6’5” and 314 pounds, he is another big man with some raw potential. The Bills have him signed to a reserve/future contract, but he’ll have to impress during the offseason and training camp in order to move up the pecking order. He has a shot at the practice squad.

Ike Boettger

  • Contract status: signed a 3-year, $1,710,000 contract as an undrafted free agent this offseason
  • Age: Will turn 24 on 10/5/18
  • 2017 Playing time: 1 snap (.1% of offensive total), 15 ST snaps (3.43%)
  • Key 2017 statistics: N/A

Boettger could be a legitimate UDFA steal for the Bills. Slated to be the starting right tackle at offensive line powerhouse Iowa, Boettger suffered a torn ACL in the second game of the season in 2017. He has great size and a pedigree, which could put him at the front of the line for a practice squad spot, or even help him sneak on to the back end of the roster if he is healthy enough.

Gerhard DeBeer

  • Contract status: signed a 3-year, $1,710,000 contract as an undrafted free agent this offseason
  • Age: Turned 24 on 7/5/18
  • 2017 Playing time: 10 starts at right tackle in 13 games for Arizona Wildcats

The UDFA had never played football before moving from South Africa to attend Arizona. He was recruited on a discus scholarship and gave up a chance at the Olympics to make the Bills roster. He also received some Bud Light this offseason. He is so raw, he is definitely a practice squad possibility.

Camp Outlook

This position is fascinating for training camp observers. You won’t see these players in highlights but many of the reporters in attendance will be watching and there are storylines galore.

1) Can Dawkins step in to the full-time left tackle spot and take a step forward, all with a new player lining up beside him and a new blocking scheme?

2) Can Mills hold off Newhouse, McDermott, and the rest of the group for the starting right tackle job?

3) Who is going to be the primary backup?

4) Will they keep three or four tackles on the active roster? (It was three initially before they added McDermott and kept four last year)

5) How many of these guys can play their way to the practice squad?

My best guess is that Dawkins will gain physical strength from year one to year two, but might not look any better with Ducasse at his side. Mills holds off the competition at right tackle, while Newhouse sticks as the swing OL and McDermott stays on the roster. Boettger to the practice squad with maybe one of the other guys to round out the group.