Camp Countdown, presented by Connors & Ferris, will examine some of the more pressing questions facing the team on the field, and players who could make a difference as the team makes its final preparations for the 2020 regular season. We also focus on a few different areas that impact the team off the field. We'll examine these issues one at a time until training camp begins. Here now is the latest daily installment as we carefully seek some of the answers the Buffalo Bills have to come up with between the start of camp and the opener on Sept. 13th.
In his rookie season it was never anticipated that Dawson Knox would offer much in the way of production for Buffalo's passing game. With a veteran pass catcher in front of him on the depth chart in Tyler Kroft and a limited college resume that amounted to all of 39 receptions at Ole Miss, the 2019 season was seen as a learning year for the tight end.
But when Kroft was injured on the first day of OTAs and then suffered another injury just as he was about to return early in the regular season, Knox enjoyed an opportunity to produce.
Demonstrating rare athletic ability in the passing game and power after the catch, Knox was a player the offensive staff wanted on the field more as the season wore on.
The only thing that held him back in his rookie campaign was his own concentration. Knox, who had 28 receptions for 388 yards and a pair of touchdowns had just a 56 percent catch rate. His drop rate of 12 percent led all NFL tight end qualifiers. This despite the fact that he had a catchable target rate of 90 percent according to PlayerProfiler.com.
After being selected in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Dawson Knox established himself as a playmaker during his rookie season. While he only caught 29 passes with 2 touchdowns in limited snaps, Knox showed the ability to make plays in a variety of ways and should be in line for a big sophomore season. Scroll through to view photos of some of his best moments from his rookie season.
Knox has worked diligently on making his personal game more consistent when it comes to pulling in passes. He is all too familiar with the opportunities he did not capitalize on as a rookie.
"I think a big piece of it is going to be his availability and his consistency," said head coach Sean McDermott. "Sometimes what you see the first year is the lack of at times consistency, and I think Dawson is aware of that and he's committed to developing to the point where that becomes a strength of his and we're here to help him with it."
Although it has been a virtual offseason, McDermott is anticipating his young tight end's game to make significant advances.
"Dawson had a good offseason," McDermott said. "We do expect a year of growth, a year of development going from its first year to a second year. I'm really encouraged by the way that he's approached things, by the way that he's worked on his body this offseason from what it appears."
Quarterback, Josh Allen, all but confirmed that Knox has added lean muscle mass to his 6-4, 258-pound frame having worked with him in the offseason. Knowing the tight end has 4.6 speed, Knox's teammates know the mismatch he can be, which will only diversify the Bills attack beyond their front-line receivers.
"I think if you look at our pieces like Dawson Knox and Motor (Singletary), they're going into their second year in the same system," said Allen. "They had a lot of success last year as rookies and they're only going to continue to get better. I think they're going to have even more opportunities with Stef (Diggs) out there. Defenses are going to pay more attention to what else we've got on the field."
It's additionally reassuring for McDermott to know that his quarterback has plenty of trust in Knox as a passing target.
"Josh has mentioned he's very confident in Dawson, which is an important piece," said Buffalo's head coach. "Good quarterback, tight end combinations – I've been around Chad Lewis was in Philadelphia with Donovan McNabb and Greg Olson in Carolina with Cam Newton. That's a big piece of quarterback's success is where he has that security blanket. In this case, the tight end position."
That trust was revealed in Knox's playing time in the second half of the season. Over the last eight games of his rookie season, Knox saw less than 67 percent of the snaps at tight end only once (Pittsburgh) with more than 83 percent of the snaps in five of those games. With a strong training camp this summer, it stands to reason that Knox could move ahead of Kroft on the depth chart as the primary passing weapon at the position.
Combine that with a firm working knowledge of offensive coordinator Brian Daboll's system and the Bills play caller believes his tight end will be able to focus more on the nuances of creating separation from defenders and winning contested catch situations.
"Being in the system for a year, is going to help," Daboll said. "You've got to remember where he came from as a walk on quarterback at Ole Miss. He didn't catch a lot of balls and then he comes up here and misses training camp some and then comes in later. Dawson is a talented young player and you hope to see some type of improvement from year one to year two."
Knox has the dedicated work ethic that's seemingly omnipresent in Buffalo's locker room. It has been instrumental in helping young players on the Bills roster to lift their personal games to new levels. Daboll thinks Knox will be no different in 2020.
"He's an athletic big man that can bend and jump and run and catch and block and hopefully he's going to be ready to go," he said. "I think he's a good player, a good person. We're happy to have him on our team. I'm hoping that he makes a good jump this year."