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Dawson Knox contributing in multiple ways for the Bills

Knox’s receiving numbers haven’t lived up to his contract extension, but don’t discount his value to Buffalo’s offense

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The expectations are higher than ever for Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox after he signed a four-year, $53.6 million contract extension this offseason.

Through 10 games this season, Knox has compiled 31 receptions for 310 yards and two touchdowns, which isn’t exactly what Bills fans had in mind for Knox after signing his big extension. However, the tight end position is more than just catching the football; they also have to be able to block. If a tight end can’t block, they are just a glorified “big” wide receiver. Knox is not a one-trick pony. He is a well-rounded tight end in today's NFL.

Knox turned in one of his better statistical performances in Week 11 against the Cleveland Browns, posting seven receptions for 70 yards. Here is an inside look at how his game went.

Looking at Knox’s targeted route chart from the Browns game isn’t very exciting. Five out of seven targets (he caught all seven of his targets) came on “block and release” routes. It is impressive that even with this limited route chart, Knox could turn these seven receptions into 70 yards. Now let’s take an All-22 view into Knox’s game versus the Browns.

Knox moves the chains

On this 3rd & 10 play, Knox does a good job of selling his pass block, but also shoving the defender inside to the tackle. He then releases to the flat to catch the football. When he catches the ball, he is still nine yards away from the first-down marker. He knows exactly where he needs to get for the first down, and he makes a nice move to break a tackle and move the chains.

Pancake block

This one is fun to watch. Knox blocks his defender 10 yards down the field, and then pancakes him. You won’t find a much better block by a tight end than this.

Yards after contact

This play is almost identical to the first play in this article. I love how Knox always fights for extra yardage when he has the football. Even if he is cornered by multiple defenders or up against the sideline, he always works to pick up as many yards as he can.

Dawson Knox: decoy?

Sometimes, the most important route on the ball is the route that doesn’t get the ball thrown to it. This route by Knox is the perfect example of that. His drag route draws the attention of two defenders, and brings them toward the line of scrimmage. This opens up the intermediate window for wide receiver Gabe Davis to slide into for the reception.

Beating zone coverage

Knox runs this route to perfection. He understands where the defenders are, and settles in the open spot in the zone, giving Allen a big window to throw into. If he runs the route too far outside, he risks having the corner make a play on the ball. If he runs the route too far inside, the safety could make a play. If he stops his route too short, Allen wouldn’t have enough space to throw over the linebacker.

Paving the way for a touchdown

It’s not often that you see a double team end up blocking three defenders. Knox and right tackle Spencer Brown double-team the defensive end just long enough to stop him from disrupting a red zone run play. Then they both come off the double team and block incoming free defenders to pave the wave to the end zone for running back Devin Singletary.

Second-level blocking

Knox plays a vital role in this run play that goes for a big gain. He steps outside and checks his initial block, which helps his teammate secure a solid block. Then Knox heads to the second level and attacks the inside shoulder of the linebacker. This is important, because Knox knows he wants Singletary to be inside his block. He does an outstanding job of getting his backside in the hole and pushing the defender outside to make a lane for Singletary to run through. Great technique by Knox.

Over the middle catch

When asked, Knox can run a solid route as a receiver. On this dig route, Knox is able to stall the safety from breaking on his route by looking outside before he broke inside. He also finds himself in the perfect spot—behind the linebackers, and in front of the safeties.

In Summary

Even though Knox doesn’t always show up with big numbers on the stat sheet, he still is a versatile tight end. I believe the Bills value his ability to be an above-average blocker and a receiving threat. Given the chance, Knox has the capability to show up more in the passing game, but don’t discount his importance to the Bills’ running game.