With the regular season drawing to a close, we’ve been looking at the players the Jets have added since cutdown day, continuing today with Kenneth Dixon.
The 25-year old running back is listed at 5’10” and 228 pounds and was a fourth-round pick out of Louisiana Tech in 2016. Dixon rushed for 715 yards and four touchdowns in his first three years in the league, despite missing the entire 2017 season. He hadn’t been on a team’s roster this year, but the Jets signed him during the week before Christmas.
Dixon was a three-star recruit and headed to Louisiana Tech where he moved into a starting role as a true freshman and was one of the most productive running backs in the nation over the next four years.
He had three thousand-yard seasons and one with over 900 yards, averaging between five and six yards per carry each year. Dixon also scored an NCAA record 87 touchdowns, although the record would subsequently be broken by Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds.
In his senior year, Dixon caught a career-high 33 passes, ending his collegiate career with 87 receptions, including 15 for touchdowns.
After two years as a second-team all-Conference USA performer, Dixon was named as a first-teamer following his senior year.
After attending the scouting combine, Dixon was a projected mid-round pick and was selected by the Ravens in the fourth round.
In his rookie year in Baltimore, Dixon did a good job in a rotational role, rushing for 382 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught 30 passes.
Dixon ended up missing the entire 2017 season with a knee injury and then suffered another knee injury in the opener in 2018. After returning from short-term injured reserve in December, he averaged 5.6 yards per carry down the stretch and had a 100-yard game in the season finale.
Another knee injury at the end of preseason in 2019 saw Dixon placed on injured reserve and eventually released with an injury settlement. Dixon joined the Jets in December but was inactive in his first game with the team.
Now let’s take a look at what Dixon brings to the table, divided into categories.
At the combine, Dixon only weighed 215 pounds, having played at approximately 235-240 earlier on in his college career. However, he has bulked back up again to almost 230 over the past few years.
At the scouting combine, Dixon only ran a 4.58 in the 40-yard dash but posted outstanding explosiveness numbers with a 37.5-inch vertical leap and 121-inch broad jump. His agility and strength numbers were about average.
Dixon has mostly been employed as a conventional back but showed an ability to catch passes out of the slot when he was in college.
Dixon has a patient running style and displays balance, burst and elusiveness. On this play, he showcases his jump-cut and ability to break tackles.
Although he has good patience, Dixon has the burst to hit the hole at speed when a running lane is open.
His balanced running style is apparent on this run, which sees him spin out of a tackle and then make another move to avoid the next tackler.
Dixon’s long speed has come into questions at times, although he did tie an NCAA record with a 99-yard touchdown run while with the Bulldogs and has had a longest run of 37 yards at the NFL level.
Since adding more weight, Dixon has showcased his ability to run with power and finish runs strongly.
As a short yardage back, Dixon has a nose for the end zone, with his touchdown numbers among the best of all time. He had 27 rushing touchdowns in his freshman year alone. At the NFL level, three of his four rushing touchdowns have come from inside the three-yard line.
Ball security has been a concern, as he’s fumbled three times in his two NFL seasons and also lost a fumble in his lone playoff appearance. Prior to that, he had 13 fumbles in his last three seasons with the Bulldogs.
Dixon has had some good production as a pass catcher, both at the NFL level and in college. While most of this comes from screen passes and dump-offs to the flat, he has displayed some downfield ball skills in college and flashes some route-running abilities.
At the NFL level, he’s only been targeted downfield once - on a pass that was intercepted - but did catch 30 passes in his rookie year, including a touchdown when the Patriots left him open in the flat.
Dixon dropped four passes in his rookie season and has had one more drop in preseason play.
Pass protection is considered to be one of Dixon’s main weaknesses, as he lacks experience and doesn’t look comfortable when called upon to do it.
He has given up one pressure per five pass blocking snaps so far in his career and also allowed this sack.
Dixon has barely played on special teams during his career so far, but did get a chance to return three kick-offs in preseason action, although he only averaged 21 yards per return.
While he is sometimes guilty of trying to do too much, Dixon’s patient running style allows him to show off good vision, not only just in terms of picking his initial hole but also at the second level and down the field.
He appears to be a naturally smooth runner in terms of making cutbacks and finding running lanes.
While he looks less than comfortable picking up the blitz, Dixon has shown some ability in terms of improvising to get open by finding a soft spot in the defense on a broken play.
Dixon can be prone to lapses in concentration, as he’s had two false start penalties in his career so far.
Although it ultimately only cost him financially because he was injured anyway, Dixon was suspended twice during the 2017 season. After initially being suspended for four games under the performance enhancing drugs policy, Dixon was suspended for two more games under the substance abuse policy.
On the field, he’s an aggressive and competitive player who will dole out punishment down the field and can be violent in terms of throwing stiff arms or finishing runs. However, he was called for unnecessary roughness once.
Injuries are a major concern for Dixon, who suffered a medial meniscus tear in 2017, another knee injury in 2018 and then fractured his knee this year in preseason.
He had previously been banged up with a knee injury in 2013 and missed two games with an ankle injury in 2015.
Dixon’s patient style and ability to execute jump-cuts has seen some people compare him to Le’Veon Bell. Of course, the jury is still out as to whether Bell is suitable for the Jets’ system or just struggling because the offensive line isn’t good enough. In an ideal world, Bell could be a great back for Dixon to learn from.
Dixon has been a teammate of Maurice Canady, CJ Mosley and Ty Montgomery while with the Ravens.
Dixon has had some legitimate production at the NFL level and has put some spectacular runs on film. However, there is doubt over his durability and whether he’ll be able to produce at the same level again.
If he can find his way into the line-up at some point, there are still a couple of areas of concern - primarily his ball security and ineffectiveness as a pass protector.
If Dixon can improve these areas and get back to 100 percent, then it will have been a shrewd move for the Jets to gain control over his rights at this stage. If not, they’ve lost nothing, so this is a worthwhile low-risk gamble.