He is the prime example of the Bills next man up mentality, and coming into his second NFL season, Dion Dawkins is primed for a big year in 2018. People around One Bills Drive are not the only ones who think so. Any fan that enjoys the lists that come out on sites like CBS Sports or Fansided will have seen Dawkins' name pop up several times.
So, what it is about the Bills' sophomore that makes him such a promising anchor on the new-look offensive line?
The easiest answer is, that Dawkins has a year under his belt. Dawkins was drafted with the second to last pick in the second round of the 2017 draft. He was not a starter at the beginning of the season, but when Cordy Glenn got injured Dawkins stepped up.
As the season progressed, so too did the play of Dawkins. Coach McDermott ultimately chose to keep Dawkins in the starting lineup from week 10 until the final snap in Jacksonville.
But that was still a rookie season, and as impressive as it was there were still rookie mistakes. Now, Dawkins knows the speed he should play at, and what it feels like for an NFL defensive lineman to come barreling at him. Now, he just needs to learn Brian Daboll's new offense.
"Last year kind of loaded me up with ammo to take on this next battle, which is year two," said Dawkins. "Playing with older guys like Richie (Incognito) and Eric Wood has molded me into the player that I am now. Just the experience alone and knowing what to expect in a game and to go through the highs and lows of a football game has been amazing. It's given me bullets."
2. His offseason workout program
A rookie year is often difficult for players in the NFL. Much of the time between the end of their college career and the start of their pro career involves preparation for the NFL combine and other on field testing, not football.
Having come through his first NFL offseason conditioning program, Dawkins is far better prepared physically for the rigors of a 16-game regular season schedule.
"With this offseason program, it's definitely got me in better shape," he said. "I'm stronger."
Dawkins added lean muscle mass during the offseason thanks to the team's strength and conditioning regimen and nutrition program.
3. He has built a relationship with the guys he plays with
Dawkins has gone to battle with a lot of players in the Bills locker room already. He's blocked for LeSean McCoy. He's held his ground on the same offensive line as Jordan Mills. He has had an entire season to learn how to prepare and play under coach McDermott.
Dawkins and the rest of the offensive line room have been meeting up off the field to stay connected, something McDermott is very happy about.
"I think anytime you share moments together, you start to build a cohesiveness and some chemistry and rapport with one another…," said McDermott, "So what Dion mentioned is that they've been hanging out a little bit, and I think that's good."
Dawkins has the makings of a potential powerhouse for the Bills, and Pete Prisco is one of the many people who think so.
Dawkins' ability to move players off the ball helped LeSean McCoy run through big holes. Dawkins also improved in pass protection the more he played. He did have a few rough spots, but he has the look of a player who will be a longtime starter.