New Buffalo Bills running back Anthony Dixon looks like he’s having fun during practice.
He’s easy to spot because he has the sleeves cut off his No. 26 jersey, but he’s also bouncing around from drill to drill with obvious enthusiasm.
“I’m a high-energy guy, that’s what I do,” Dixon said after a Bills spring practice last week. “I bring the noise. I also bring the pain. … I’m just trying to set the tone, set the tempo. I’m definitely trying to make plays and just mesh with my teammates, get the chemistry going so we can win games.”
Dixon is a power back Buffalo signed as a free-agent from San Francisco. He has a chance to fill a niche in the loaded Bills’ backfield as a short-yardage runner and change-of-pace weapon.
The Bills were pretty good at running in short-yardage situations last year. They converted 72 percent of third- and fourth-down runs with 1 or 2 yards to go. That ranked 11th best in the NFL.
Dixon is 6-foot-1, 233 pounder, and his more powerful frame could enhance that aspect of the Bills’ offense. We’ll see what kind of power he displays while running when the pads come on in training camp. But in spring practice, he surely looks the part of a big, physical back.
He said he’s eager to show what he can do in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
“I can pretty much sew that up if the coach calls upon me,” he said. “That’s been my specialty for the last two years.”
“I know from seeing winning teams that you’ve got to be good in those areas,” he said. “We’ve got to get it when it’s on the line. That’s where you win ballgames, keeping guys like Tom Brady and Drew Brees on the sidelines when you’ve got to have that first down.”
Dixon spent the last four years with the Niners, and his main role was as a core special-teamer. He got between 21 and 29 carries each of the last three seasons. He converted 9 of 10 runs for first downs on third and 1 or 2 situations with the Niners.
“I think from a mentality standpoint, you’ve got to play with an edge,” he said.
“You’ve got to play with a little bit of anger because it gets tough up in there.”
The 49ers ranked among the top eight in the NFL in rushing each of the last three years. The Bills ranked second in rushing last year. Dixon thinks good running teams need to bring a physical mentality.
“When some teams see that, they can get intimidated,” he said. “They might not say it. Or they might say it don’t mean nothing. But when you go out there and you’re high-energy and you’re also bringing the pain, you can make some teams fold early, because a lot of guys don’t want to play like that. A lot of guys are thinking about their contract years and all that type of stuff.”
As far as mechanics go, Dixon says the key to short-yardage running is quick feet.
“From a technique standpoint you’ve got to have great feet because there’s a lot of foot traffic going on,” he said.
“You can’t stop your feet. You’re always trying to move downfield with it. You also need to have your feet picked up. I remember the NFC championship game, the first one we played in, there was a crucial third-and-1 that I didn’t get. It was all because of my feet. I didn’t pick my feet up in the hole and I got tripped up. That’s just an example.”
“You also got to study,” Dixon said.
“You’ve got to know their favorite plays. A lot of teams don’t change. They do the same things they like to do, things they’re good at, game in and game out. You’ve got to become a student of the game. That’s one thing I learned in San Francisco. That’s something I learned from Frank Gore. I just try to apply it.”
The Bills worked for two hours in a voluntary practice Monday. Rookie defensive end Bryan Johnson suffered a leg injury and had to be carted off the field. Receiver Marquise Goodwin banged his knee while getting tangled up with a cornerback on a deep pass route. He came back to return a kickoff but sat out the rest of the session. … Linebackers Preston Brown and Ty Powell had interceptions.