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2020 All-22 Analysis: Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox

A look at the tight end’s second year

Second-year tight end Dawson Knox was the main man at the position for the Buffalo Bills in 2020. Knox comfortably led the tight end group in playing time despite missing several games due to injury. Knox was generally considered to be the tight end with the highest upside on the team, explaining the heavy usage. Production-wise things were a bit lacking. Knox’s three touchdowns tied for the lead with Tyler Kroft. They outpaced Lee Smith by a single touchdown. Let’s dive in.


Play 1

This play is what you want from a tight end. The faux-block at the beginning is sold well. At worst, it momentarily removes one direction of attack. At best it can cause hesitation. Dawson Knox then slips out, sees Josh Allen is on the move and flows the same way for an easy gain.

Play 2

Similar to above, but here he uses good leverage and timing to knock the man in front of him off his spot. Knox then transitions fluidly to his route. These first two plays aren’t eye-poppers, but done consistently these skills can come in handy for a big target.

Play 3

Overall, Knox shows up as a pretty strong and athletic player. The angle of attack helps, but that’s a heck of a pop to the 300-lb DeForest Buckner.

Play 4

Dawson Knox runs a short route, sees the quick pitch, and now has to find someone to block. He finds someone but it doesn’t go well. After initially squaring up, Knox is yanked to the side. He’s more speed bump than wall.

Play 5

This is the same story, but on this play Knox was going to be blocking the entire time. It wasn’t the transition from route to block, this is a serious flaw in his blocking game. In both cases Knox is high in his stance and putting a lot of weight forward.

Play 6

You knew I’d be mentioning the drops. Let’s talk catch rate. I like this stat as a measurement of the overall chemistry between a quarterback and a particular receiver. I don’t like it as a lone player stat, as both parties can impact the result.

Dawson Knox’s catch rate was 54.5 percent. Some bad throws from Josh Allen are certainly included. But using Allen as the constant and “Bills receivers” as the variable, it’s notable that the only player with a worse catch rate on the Bills was T.J. Yeldon. And with only four targets he’d be a non-qualifier for rate stats. The team average was 71.7 percent. Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley were both over 76 percent. Only Gabriel Davis joined Knox and Yeldon below 60 percent and the rookie still edged out Knox.

Play 7

Despite the drops and miscues, Dawson Knox has been given a lot of chances in his two years because he shows traits you love to see. The early jam moves him a bit out of lane but barely impacts his speed. He adjusts to this catch well and gets hammered on his way to the ground. This is a nice catch.

Play 8

This catch is just fantastic. That’s a great move to get open. Knox times it well and races to the sideline with a TON of separation. The toe-tap catch is icing on the cake.


Summary

There aren’t any surprises on film. Dawson Knox is a case where pretty much everyone sees the same thing. The good news is that all the tools are there for a great player to emerge. A major jump in blocking and consistency when catching aren’t that much to ask for right? OK, yes it’s a big ask but not an unreasonable one. I don’t think it would be all that shocking for year three to be a breakout season for Knox. But I wouldn’t put all my eggs in that basket just in case.