By Paul Wanecski
Anthony “Boobie” Dixon was signed at the start of the 2014 offseason to be a physical inside presence and contribute on special teams. 16 games later, we have a new head coach and Dixon has been reunited with the offensive coordinator he left in San Fransico. So what will happen with Boobie this year?
Before we move on, it is interesting to note that the 173rd pick that was used to acquire Dixon in the draft by the 49ers was actually owned by two teams prior to San Francisco. This is just another tale of how late round selections and the need of teams to move up can have long term rewards. As stated, Dixon was selected 173rd in 2010 (6thround), a selection that was originally held by the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins traded the 12th, 110th and 173rd pick to the San Diego Chargers who wanted to move up and select Ryan Mathews. Miami took the Chargers 28th pick and selected Jared Odrick, acquired LB Tim Dobbins and still had the Chargers 40th and 126th picks in 2010. The Chargers then flipped to the 49ers the 173rd pick they got from Miami, their 91st pick in 2010, along with the 115thselection in 2011 to move up in the 3rd round to take Donald Butler 79th overall. The players that the 49ers selected with the newly acquired 91st, 173rd and 115th were NaVarro Bowman, Dixon and Kendall Hunter. Not a bad deal.
3 Reasons to Keep
Finding special teamers who can contribute to more than just the special teams unit is tough in the NFL. The Bills have invested long term in players like Garrison Sanborn and Marcus Easley, who offer much less than Dixon when it comes to overall on field production. Dixon, believe it or not, also has returned kick-offs in previous seasons. While he may not be a prototypical return man, he does have the skill in the tool box if ever called upon.
Red Zone and Short Yardage Monster:
Dixon provides an immediate impact in the red zone. He is a player with power that opposing defenses will need to account for in short-yardage situations. He is not only capable of slamming the ball up the gut, he flashed his hands this year and could also be dangerous in split back settings with LeSean McCoy, when Dixon might be isolated in the flat to take advantage of defenses shifting coverage against McCoy. In 3rd down situations when Dixon didn’t find the end zone, he has a rushing first down percentage of 69.5%.
Reinvented in Buffalo:
Last year, Boobie was never given a start (he actually has only 1 start in his career and that was with Roman in 2013 at fullback) but was able to contribute for 105 rushing attempts, 432 yards and a career high 4.1 yards per carry. In his 64 games with the 49ers, he had only 148 carries to the tune of 8 TDs, 458 yards and a 3.1 yard per carry average. Yes, he rushed for only 26 yards less in Buffalo last year than he had his entire 4 years with San Fransisco. Dixon is a powerful back who also nearly doubled his career reception total this year, hauling in 8 passes for 49 yards. Given the dynamic on the roster of incumbent Fred Jackson, newcomer LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown, Dixon offers the type of inside power that it appears the rest of this group is lacking.
3 Reasons to Cut
Dixon was unhappy with how he was used with the 49ers and took to social media to vent his concerns. Mind you, this is all under Greg Roman, his newly reunited offensive coordinator. While this may seem like something that is water under the bridge, these little problems have a tendency to bubble to the surface eventually. While this shouldn’t impact his place on the roster right now, he has shown impatience with his coaching staff before and could again. Aside from his comments, his limited carries in so many years for such a run-heavy offense does not speak highly of what Roman thinks of Dixon. These are a selection of the comments he made on November 17th, 2013 after seeing only 20 plays, all on special teams (kept in the original grammatical context):
“Jus flat outright salty right now WTF praying for more opportunities”
“It jus sucks to have major skill and not allowed to show it wishing the hating would stop smh”
“I know I’m a threat I know my game is ready to dominate at the highest level and I don’t need no co-signer been knew I had it”
The Bills are loaded with special team talent including Marcus Easley, Chris Hogan, Marcus Thigpen, Marquise Goodwin, Jonathan Meeks, among others. While Dixon provides a large frame, the Bills have committed plenty of roster positions to players who may only contribute on special teams. While Dixon is not really a threat to take anyone’s position as a kick returner, he does become a target if the Bills look to draft another running back in 2015. Releasing Dixon would save just under $1 million this season and would remove him $1.3 million cap figure for 2016. Out of all running backs in the NFL, his contract is the 36th highest. While the futures of players like Thigpen and Goodwin are debatable, only a trade or injury would bring into question the future of Hogan and Easley. While Dixon’s contract may not be too much to bare now, his cap figure for 2016 seems a bit out of spectrum when looking at what his role will be going forward.
As any Bills fan can attest, as far as an organization goes, Buffalo has never been shy about drafting running backs. This year will be no exception. A late round selection like Yale’s Tyler Varga, FSU’s Karlos Williams, or even a projected undrafted free agent signing like Louisville’s Dominique Brown could impact Dixon’s future. When it comes to the salary cap in the next few seasons, Buffalo has quite a bit of trimming to do if they intend on keeping the likes of Marcell Dareus, Nigel Bradham, Stephone Gilmore and Cordy Glenn all at One Bills Drive. The NFL is a game of attrition and while Dixon has never missed a game in his 5 seasons, when it comes to priorities he could find himself on the bottom of the list.
On a side note, the crew at Hashtag Sports has never really understood why Dixon has been seen in short yardage situations trying to leap over defenders. While we were under the assumption that this was a series of isolated incidents, according to this photo, it may be a habit. We have yet to confirm if he is trying to collect airline miles.