As a rookie, Kevin Dotson had a little bit of the “James Washington Problem” going on. And I know, generally not many similarities between a 215-pound wide receiver and an offensive lineman pushing three bills. In college, Washington lined up almost exclusively on the right side of the offense. So he had to get comfortable moving around. Ditto with Dotson. A permanent right guard in college, he ended spending a chunk of his rookie season in Pittsburgh on the left side.
With that experience at his back and an offseason to train, Dotson says he feels a lot better about playing left guard. Which is good because that’s where the team wants him this season. Dotson spoke with reporters Wednesday to discuss getting more comfortable at LG.
“They want me to train more left,” Dotson told reporters via a Zoom call from the team. “That’s really where they have me right now. So that’s pretty much what I did the whole offseason was training for left side. Just to get a little more comfortable in it. Because last year when I played there, I really wasn’t too comfortable with it. But I feel like I’m way more comfortable now.”
Many fans believe linemen can be shifted around without issue. If you can play left tackle, you can play right tackle. But it’s a much bigger challenge than that. Everything a player is asked to do is flipped. Your steps, your punch, your eyes, your reads, and some players are simply more comfortable on one side versus the other. Former Steelers’ OT Flozell Adams, a left tackle in Dallas before moving to RT in Pittsburgh, once compared flipping sides like writing with your non-dominant hand.
Dotson began his NFL career at right guard, replacing Stefen Wisniewski late in the Week 1 opener against the New York Giants and then filling in for him and David DeCastro in Week 2 versus Denver. But late in the year after Matt Feiler landed on IR with a pec injury, Dotson shifted over to left guard, starting the final two weeks there. In total, he played 363 offensive snaps at guard. 171 of those, 47%, came at left guard. As Dotson admits, he wasn’t totally comfortable there. But the team didn’t have a choice. I’m sure Dotson wasn’t complaining about getting the chance to play.
With Feiler moving on to the Chargers, the path is wide open for Dotson to be the starting left guard in 2021. That’s clearly what the team anticipated and what he’s been training for. By Week 1 against Buffalo, it should be second-nature. He should fit in well with Adrian Klemm’s aggressive-minded offensive line, and has the chance to make one giant leap in his sophomore season.