Another week, another tale of the tape. As mentioned earlier in the week, you guys voted on Kenneth Dixon!
Alright guys, it's that time again!— Baltimore Beatdown (@BMoreBeatdown) February 22, 2017
Pick @tjack94's next Film Room piece!
Before getting into Dixon, I want to make a note that there wasn't a lot to work with. Dixon’s workload became larger late in the season, but he didn't have a rushing attempt until Week 5. Without further adieu, here we go!
I’m going to refer to some traits that were strengths for Dixon coming out of college. The first one is his patience, which has been compared to that of Le’Veon Bell. I didn't see Bell’s level of patience, but I did see patience nonetheless. This is a play I’d like to show as an example. The Ravens loved to run tosses with Dixon and you'll notice that trend throughout this piece. Here Dixon follows his blocks and doesn't cut up the field into traffic. He waits for the perfect hole and cuts through it to gain eight yards.
Vision and Cuts:
Dixon was a smaller back that had power, but his ability to cutback and find holes displayed a level of elusiveness that the team hasn't had at the position in awhile. Make no mistake, Dixon isn't Lesean McCoy, but he has really good footwork. In the play above he displays his vision and ability in the open field. Dixon recognizes that the run to the left is going nowhere and the linebacker over-pursued, leaving a cutback lane. Dixon finds that hole and jukes the safety to secure an extra 10 yards on the play.
This is another example of Dixon's vision and footwork. He’s able to hit the hole immediately and shed two tackle attempts before finally going down.
Against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Christmas night, Dixon carried the Raven’s rushing attack, and with it, most of the Pittsburgh defense. Regardless of who is tackling Dixon, he's nearly impossible to bring down if you go high on him. He demonstrates that above by carrying the safety seven yards downfield before help arrives to bring him down.
In the play above, the power is clearly evident once again, as Dixon gets eight yards after initial contact. The unfortunate thing with Dixon, which I’ll touch on in his negatives, is he didn't make plays like this often.
I could show numerous plays of Dixon performing out of the backfield, but I chose this one because I believe it summarizes all he’s capable of as a receiver. Joe Flacco heavily relies on his running backs as safety blankets in the passing game, for better or worse (see 4th and 29). Here Dixon runs a really nice route out of the backfield and is able to turn up field for a few yards after the catch. Dixon was an excellent pass catcher coming out of college and continued that trend his rookie year. As mentioned earlier, he runs really nice routes out of the backfield, which is something that not every running back can do. Some backs struggle their entire career’s (Michael Turner) to become any sort of factor in the passing game and Dixon showed his ability to do that regularly. Dixon occasionally split out wide as well in certain formations, only reinforcing that the coaching staff also recognizes his talent as a receiver.
Dixon lacks breakaway speed in the open field. I watched every single carry, catch and target he had in 2016 and he never displayed the ability to pull away from the defense in the open field. You can go back to any of the aforementioned clips and see that regardless of the whole or path he gets, he can never quite hit that extra gear and pull away. The unfortunate thing is all of the best running backs posses this trait. Ezekiel Elliot, David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell, Adrian Peterson before 2016 and various others.
Something out of nothing:
I used this play in the positives, but I’ll use it again for the negatives. Keep in mind there wasn't a large sample size of Dixon carries to see, but rarely did he show the ability to keep a play alive or make something out of nothing. Sometimes blocking schemes will break down and the defense will penetrate into the backfield to blow a play up, or cut you off. It’s unfair to compare a mid-round pick to some of the best in the game, but so often players over the past few years such as Matt Forte, Jamaal Charles, Lesean McCoy, Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson and Marshawn Lynch were able to turn losses of two and three yards into gains of 30 and 40 yards. Outside of the play above, I didn't see a lot of that from Dixon.
I don't think we saw enough of Kenneth Dixon in year one to know if he can be a bell cow franchise back for the Ravens. I believe he flashed at times, but splitting snaps didn't help clarify what he can be. The Ravens didn't put him in situations where he had to pass protect often and that’s one thing I wanted to see more of. With the 2017 NFL Draft loaded at the position, I wouldn't be surprised to see the team take a running back to come in and compete with Dixon. In order to get a feel for what Dixon is and what he can be, he’ll have to beat out whatever competition is in front of him in order to take a larger workload.