Countdown to Training Camp: Dion Dawkins ranks as 4th Most Valuable Bill

Their prized left tackle is widely believed to be coming off his finest season and approaching his athletic peak at age 27.
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Protecting Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen's blind side is a job that became infinitely more important in 2020, when Allen proved how much of a force he could become on his way to a breakout season that led to a second-place finish in the NFL MVP voting.

Allen hasn't worked with any other starting left tackle since coming into the league in 2018, and the Bills made sure it's going to stay that way for a good while, signing Dawkins to a four-year contract extension worth $58.3 million last year.

The reason was simple. Dawkins is very good and getting better all the time.

So good that he ranks fourth in our projected 30 Most Valuable Bills, unveiled each day in inverse order leading up to the start of training camp on Wednesday.

Much like linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, Dawkins stepped in and impressed right away as a rookie. But after seasons that weren't considered to be as productive in 2018 and 2019, he came back last season with his highest pass-blocking grade and an improved performance as a run blocker, according to Pro Football Focus, which ranks him 21st in the league in his position group heading into the 2021 season.

The analysis:

"Dawkins is the model of consistency when it comes to protecting the quarterback. His career-low pass-blocking grade sits at 76.2 (2018), while his career-high is 79.2 (2020). His run blocking has been shakier, but he was more impactful in that facet in 2020 than in the two seasons prior to that. Dawkins earned a 75.1 run-blocking grade last year, which was more than 10 grading points better than his 2018 and 2019 marks and closer to his 2017 rookie campaign number."

Also singing Dawkins' praises these days is NFL.com's Marc Sessler, who this month wrote that Dawkins has the best chance of any Bill to earn his first Pro Bowl berth this coming season.

"Dawkins ventured into last season with one lingering knock: His finest campaign came as a rookie in 2017," Sessler wrote. "Those concerns were put to bed in 2020, when the 6-foot-5, 320-pound left tackle went wire to wire as a reliable run blocker and pass protector. [Quarterback] 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."

On top of that, he mans a critical position with authority and confidence and is part of a line that returns all its starters from a year ago, including right tackle Daryl Williams and guard Jon Feliciano.

At 6-5, 320, Dawkins literally is a huge reason for their success.

Nick Fierro is the publisher of Bills Central. Check out the latest Bills news at www.si.com/nfl/bills and follow Fierro on Twitter at @NickFierro. Email to Nicky300@aol.com.