If there is one thing that Bills Mafia almost unanimously agrees to, it is that the offensive line was the weakest link for an otherwise outstanding unit in 2022.
Brandon Beane still decided to attack the OL this offseason despite finishing last year second in the NFL in points per game at 28.4 and yards per game at 397.6. They also earned Football Outsiders’ No. 2 ranking in DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) with a 19% score. The two key acquisitions were signing guard Connor McGovern away from the Cowboys and drafting O’Cyrus Torrence in the second round of the most recent draft.
Even with these two moves, the most integral finger in the fist-throwing punches in front of Josh Allen is still left tackle Dion Dawkins. It’s fair to say that the 2017 second-round selection had the worst season of his career, or at least the most disappointing. I know, he made the Pro Bowl. Let’s stop using that as a measure of success. Remember, Mac Jones played in the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
With that, Dawkins reclaiming the form from 2020/2021, where we agreed the LT spot was locked down for the next decade, will certainly go a long way in protecting Allen’s blindside in 2023 and beyond. This is why the fan favorite earned 23 of a possible 60 points, with @UberHansen ranking him the highest at No. 1.
“The Bills have talented depth at each position on their roster, except Quarterback and…Offensive Tackle. Their only proven asset at OT is Dion Dawkins with no true backup capable of protecting Allen’s blindside. Buffalo can ill afford to lose Dawkins in 2023 and just as importantly need him to be the number one reason Allen doesn’t take a beating this upcoming season,” – @UberHansen.
Dawkins allowed four sacks in 2022, bringing him in at 39th out of 87 qualified tackles (played 20% of snaps). The Temple product gave up three more hits to his QB, placing him 32nd out of those 87. The most damning number for Dawkins is the 30 hurries he allowed. The times Allen felt pressure from his blind side ranked 77th out of 87. These numbers being some of the worst of Dawkins’ career are hopefully a blip and not a trend.
The perfume for this often putrid line play rest or runs on the legs of Allen. Last year, the signal caller was able to convert his 16 scrambles on third or fourth down into 13 first downs, per NFL Stats and Solutions.
I know this sounds like a hit piece on Dawkins, but the big man graded out as the Bills’ best lineman in 2022, per Pro Football Focus (PFF), so let’s take a deeper dive into those numbers.
Even with the obvious struggles, ESPN still rated the Bills as the fourth-best unit in pass blocking with a win rate of 67%. Things took a precipitous fall in their run block win rate. Buffalo came in 21st with a rate of 71%.
PFF didn’t see this group much better in run blocking, scoring them as the second-worst unit only beating out the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Moving back to Dawkins’ individual PFF grades, his 73.8 overall grade was the worst of his last three seasons. A score of 59.1 in pass blocking was the second worst of his career, and his 80.4 in pass blocking was pretty much on par for the rest of his tenure in Buffalo.
But Greg, how did he fair versus the rest of the league? I’m glad you asked! As you can see in the PFF chart above, Dawkins finished 23rd out of 83 qualified tackles in their scoring system. His 80.4 pass block grade ranked 16th, and (cover your eyes) his run blocked dropped down to 60.9, or 49th overall.
Dawkins is the starting left tackle. PERIOD. He lined up at LT 951 times last season and added two snaps at tight end. If he’s healthy, the 6’5″ 320lb monster should log close to 1,000 more snaps for Buffalo in 2023.
It’s not that Dawkins was awful in 2022, he was right around league average for left tackles, but the problem is he’s shown extended flashes that he can play at an All-Pro level. That is the scale on which we grade him. An improvement from the veteran will go a long way in the overall growth of the Bills’ offense. Giving Allen a cleaner pocket is never a bad idea. Dawkins cleaning up his game, as well as the additions Beane has made along the OL should help keep Buffalo as a top-flight offense in 2023.