Film Room: Kevin Dotson Solid In First NFL Start

Few Steelers fans expected fourth round pick Kevin Dotson to play in just the second game of the NFL regular season when he was drafted.. However, due to injuries from David DeCastro and Steven Wisnewski, the rookie was thrown into the fire against a talented Denver Broncos defensive line. Not only did Dotson play well, but he got the best of one of the better interior defensive lineman, Jurrell Casey.

According to PFF, the Louisiana Lafayette standout did not allow a single pressure on 43 pass blocking reps, and was the only rookie to not allow a pressure in 10 or more pass blocking snaps. That is impressive for any offensive lineman, let alone a rookie.

There were a variety of good blocking reps Dotson displayed on Sunday, and plenty of minor things to improve as well. Below I will explore both sides of the spectrum for Dotson that should leave Steelers fans encouraged for the immediate and near future.

The Good

In college, the 6’4”, 320 pound right guard threw his defenders across the field regularly, and made a living off pancaking his matchup in the running game. While Dotson did not maul his matchup consistently on Sunday, he made some important blocks.

In this first play, on the goalline, he chips the interior lineman and washes the linebacker out of the gap to give James Conner a lane for the touchdown. Impressive for the rookie, who rarely missed an assignment on Sunday.

While his calling card is in the run game, Dotson made some nice plays in pass pro as well.

On this play, Dotson moves his feet well, has solid hand placement and sticks with his defender. He is the type of player that will play until the whistle blows and doesn’t give up on the play after a few seconds. He doesn’t turn his hips or open the gate, and continues to stay square, mirroring where his man goes. Certainly one of his best plays in pass protection.

Back to another strong run rep from Dotson. On this draw play to Conner, he invites Jurrell Casey upfield and keeps his feet moving when Casey tries to disengage. Dotson runs his feet and ends up pushing Casey to the ground, allowing Conner to pick up a sizable gain. His hand placement on the initial punch could be better, but he finishes the play strong.

There are more plays that could be highlighted, but those three plays showcase how impressive of a performance Dotson displayed on Sunday.

The Improvements

As well as Kevin Dotson played, not all of his reps were picture perfect, and his coaches will likely remind of that this week. None of the plays highlighted below will display any plays where he completely whiffs or blocks the wrong man. These improvements highlight either technique of leverage issues, which will be worked out with more practice and game reps.

The first play under the microscope is Dotson picking up a blitzing linebacker. Upon initial contact, Dotson is square, and in good position, playing with solid pad level. However, he lunges instead of making a strong initial punch, allows the linebacker to get in his chest and his leverage is too high. The linebacker walks him back and ends up tipping the ball at the line of scrimmage. Not Dotson’s finest rep, but sometimes the defender gets better leverage. Dotson has to do a better job anchoring and getting his hands inside earlier.

This next play is more about having the feel and understanding of the game. On this draw play, Dotson makes a solid pass set, moves Jurrell Casey out of the way and recognizes a twist from Bradley Chubb is coming. Unfortunately, Dotson is just a step too late and Chubb makes the play after a minimal gain. This is about timing and feel because Dotson does not realize the twist is coming until the last moment. Getting in the film room and seeing that more during the game will allow Dotson to anticipate the twists coming. The assignment was done correctly, but you would like Dotson to get his head around quicker to see the twist coming.

All in all, coaches can’t be too upset with his performance. This upcoming week features the Houston Texans and JJ Watt, who is still one of the more disruptive forces in the NFL. I expect the Texans to throw more stunts and twists at Dotson and the offensive line. But for now, coaches and fans should be encouraged from what they see from the 24-year old rookie.

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