Once the Buffalo Bills traded away incumbent left tackle Cordy Glenn during the 2018 offseason, it was readily apparent the team felt comfortable with Dion Dawkins taking over as the starter in 2019.
Dawkins, who was selected with the No. 63 overall pick in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, had proven himself to be a capable fill-in when Glenn himself was battling an assortment of injuries, so it was logical to assume Dawkins could continue his stellar play anchoring Buffalo’s blind side prior to the start of the 2018 season.
While Dawkins was remarkably durable, appearing in 99.8 percent of the Bills’ offensive snaps last season—and missing only two of 1,059 total offensive plays—his play slipped from his rookie season.
The regression wasn’t lost on Dawkins, who has spent much of the offseason improving his conditioning and stamina.
“I’d say for this season, I’m a different player,” Dawkins told Mark Gaughan of The Buffalo News. “I’m taking it extremely serious because I understand every day my job is on that line. One thing wrong, we have guys who can jump in. That’s something that I can’t afford to let happen. I’m taking every step very carefully and just being me.”
Opposing pass rushers registered eight sacks against Dawkins, after allowing only three sacks during his rookie season. Additionally, the left tackle allowed 34 quarterback pressures, which tied for 21st among tackles. As a result, Dawkins’s play earned him a 69.5 grade according to Pro Football Focus, good for 39th among all tackles.
Instead of evolving into one of the better tackles, Dawkins took a major step backwards in both his run blocking and pass protection last year.
Dawkins has spent the offseason getting back in better shape, shedding anywhere between seven and nine pounds from his frame.
“Last season I definitely played heavier,” said Dawkins, who is listed on the Buffalo Bills’ website as being 6’5” and 320 lbs. “I played at around 327, 328. This season I’m planning on playing between 319 and 321. That’s the weight I feel most comfortable and I think I’m at my best.”
Dawkins also committed 15 penalties, tied for second-most in the NFL—a significant spike from the four he was called for during his rookie season. One of the biggest reasons why Dawkins dropped those excess pounds is to combat the rising number of penalties he committed last year.
“Penalties happen when guys are tired,” Dawkins said. “That’s when your technique causes you to get lax and do things that aren’t meant to be done. I’m taking everything more serious, my conditioning, my training and my body. I really feel like my body is getting in the best shape of my life. Hopefully this season it will show. I’m shooting for none. I’m shooting for those low, low numbers.”
There is competition along the offensive line this year, as the Bills signed six free agents, including tackles Ty Nsekhe and LaAdrian Waddle. Additionally, the team drafted mauler Cody Ford, one of the best and most complete offensive tackles available in the draft, with pick No. 38 in the second round.
Dawkins was with the first team for nearly all of spring practices. Whether he can return to the promise he flashed during his rookie season will go a long ways towards determining how successful second-year quarterback Josh Allen and the Bills’ offense will be in 2019.