Buffalo Bills: Early predictions for standout Bills players in 2018
By Matt Karas
The Buffalo Bills enter the 2018 NFL season with a newfound air of confidence based on last season’s surprisingly fruitful campaign. Despite this success, a rather large roster overhaul has taken place leaving many questions to be answered. With that in mind, let me put myself out there and make some early player award predictions.
NFL training camp is officially upon us. Now that felt really, really good to say. Rookies enter the summer extravaganza hungry to make a good first impression, while seasoned veterans are willing to pull out all the stops to ensure continued employment.
With the Buffalo Bills shocking the world last season and miraculously sneaking into the NFL playoffs for the first time in 18 years, expectations are as high as they have been in decades. Veterans Lesean McCoy, Micah Hyde and Kyle Williams will look to continue performing at a high level, despite becoming increasingly longer in the tooth. With the Bills incurring a material amount of turnover year-over-year, a gradual passing of the guard to fresher faces will invariably take place.
With this in mind, time for me to (prematurely) hand out player awards to such faces for the upcoming season.
The time has come for sophomore tackle Dion Dawkins to take his game to the next level. The Bills became enamored with the nimble tackle out of Temple during last year’s Senior Bowl and, as a result, proceeded to execute a trade with the Atlanta Falcons in the second round of the NFL draft to secure his services. With the sought after ability to shift to the interior line, the Bills had multiple options with how to best utilize Dawkins’ flexibility during his rookie campaign.
Early in the season, the 6-foot-4, 314-pound lineman split duties with incumbent stalwart Cordy Glenn. He was also utilized as an extra tackle in run formation sets schemed up by (then) offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, to varying degrees of success. It was in the team’s Week 3 matchup against the Denver Broncos where Dawkins got his first career NFL start due to an injury to Glenn and immediately showed flashes of brilliance.
Dawkins ended the season with 11 impressive starts, which rendered the second-highest pass-blocking efficiency among rookie offensive tackles. His encouraging play afforded general manager Brandon Beane the luxury to pawn off Glenn’s inflated salary to the Cincinnati Bengals, officially anointing Dawkins as the team’s franchise left tackle of the future.
He is now in the spotlight with the all-important task of protecting rookie quarterback Josh Allen‘s backside for the foreseeable future. Something tells me he’ll succeed with flying colors.