The Buffalo Bills will have their starting offensive line together for the first time this offseason after a key starter returned from a trip to the COVID-19 reserve list.
Dion Dawkins was activated on Thursday after spending close to two weeks away from the team. As NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk noted, he went on the COVID-19 reserve list at the start of training camp in late July, but it will likely be a bit longer before he gets back onto the field.
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As WROC-TV’s Thad Brown noted, Dawkins had been easing back into training camp this week, making an appearance on Monday to watch his teammates practice. It was seen as a positive sign that Dawkins could be back soon, as fellow offensive lineman Ike Boettger had also appeared on the sidelines in the days before he returned from the COVID-19 reserve list.
The 6-foot-5, 320-pound Dawkins has been the anchor of the Bills offensive line, and some predict that he will have a breakout season. Marc Sessler of NFL.com predicted that Dawkins would make his first career Pro Bowl this season, crediting him with providing the stability on the offensive line that allowed Josh Allen to flourish.
“Josh Allen’s fireball rise is grounded in his almost-supernatural athletic gifts, but Buffalo brass deserve credit, too, for creating a stable environment. Dawkins — who landed a four-year, $60 million extension last August — is linked to Allen’s future for years to come as a bookend on the rise.”
Dawkins was rated highly for his performance last season, with PFF ranking him as the 21st best offensive tackle in the league.
It will likely take a bit longer for Dawkins to see the field, however. The Bills play their first preseason game on Friday night, but head coach Sean McDermott has said that starters, including Allen, will not be playing. Dawkins, who has yet to go through a practice since coming off the COVID-19 reserve list, is not expected to play either.
McDermott instead said the games would instead be a chance for the team to evaluate some of the younger players.
“It’s kind of hard to project right now,” McDermott said about the first preseason game in a press conference. “For this one, we felt like it was important to take a good look at these young players in particular to give them their due. And this is the first time that with the cuts each week basically after each game, we want to make sure we have a good handle on who we have and what we need to do going forward.”
Rookie’s Chance To Shine
One of the young players who could see significant time in Friday’s game is the rookie who had been filling in for Dawkins while he was out. As Heather Prusak of WIBV-Buffalo noted, third-round pick Spencer Brown moved into Dawkins’ spot with the starting unit, with his play earning some praise from McDermott.
“He’s held his own in there against some good competition and now with Jerry [Hughes] back it’s given him another look at what a veteran defensive end looks like from that side in particular so it’s been good for him to get the reps he’s gotten,” McDermott said, via WIVB.
Brown said he’s excited to get the chance to take the field in the team’s first preseason game.
“It’s pretty calm right now, I don’t get too riled up for games but right before kick-off is where I get going and I have to remember my game-day routine, it’s been a while so I’ll have to figure it out but excitement level is pretty high right now,” Brown said, via WIVB.