After missing the beginning of training camp with an ankle injury, Kevin Dotson has been working to get back onto the field and apparently out of HC Mike Tomlin’s doghouse. Tomlin has been pretty blunt in his comments about Dotson over the past couple of weeks, stating “He hasn’t done nothing to earn first-team reps. What are we talking about? He’s a second-year guy that hadn’t worked.”
Granted, this comment was likely blown out of proportion as Dotson hadn’t practiced at all up until that point, and when asked about why Dotson was working with the second-string OL rather than jumping right back in with the first-team unit, Tomlin wanted to acknowledge that Dotson has some ground to make up.
However, after Dotson’s game against the Eagles and taking first-team reps on Saturday, Tomlin responded to ESPN’s Brooke Pryor if there was a correlation between Dotson’s performance and earning first-team reps in practice with the likes of Trai Tuner and Kendrick Green sitting out, “[Dotson] did perform well in the game, but I wouldn’t anoint him just yet.”
After watching the tape over again, while Tomlin may have worded it right by saying he wasn’t going to “anoint” Dotson after one preseason game, I do think he is firmly in the driver’s seat to win the starting LG spot for the regular season. While the first-team OL took a while to establish themselves, the second-team unit controlled the LOS against Philadelphia for a majority of the second quarter and well into the second half of the game. They were successful at getting a good push upfront and maintaining drives down the field that successfully put points on the board.
Here is a good example on this draw play to #38 Jaylen Samuels on second down where you see Dotson come off the ball and man-handle the interior defensive lineman, driving him back and turning his shoulders to create a seal on the left for Samuels to run through as he spins through contact and picks up an additional five yards from the Dotson block.
On the very next play, we see Dotson pull from the LG spot to pick up the defensive end coming off of the edge, standing him up and turning him around as Samuels rips off a nice gain on first down. Dotson does come in with his hands outside the defenders’ shoulders on the block and will need to have better hand placement on his block, but it’s still a good play to trigger a successful run on first down.
Later in the third quarter, we saw some more good moments from Dotson from both a pass blocking and run blocking perspective. Here on this third down pass attempt, Dotson does a wonderful job in pass protection, ceding hardly any ground to the pass rusher up the middle. He plays with a great base and anchors in against the rush, getting a great initial punch with his left arm then is able to reset his hands inside and completely neutralize the rush as Haskins finds an open receiver to move the chains.
Later in the drive, we see the offensive line build off of good play with a score on the goal line. The whole OL gets enough of an initial push upfront to allow Samuels to break the LOS and fall into the end zone. Granted, I personally would have liked to see better leg drive from Dotson and #65 Dan Moore Jr. on the left side as they both got a little high with their blocks, but they did win the rep and got the push they need to put points on the board.
There are still some things that Dotson does need to improve after breaking down his game against the Eagles. For instance, he needs to do a better job of working in space and effectively putting a body on a man like on this WR screen pass to the left where Dotson shows great athleticism climbing to the second level of the defense but overruns the safety he attempts to pick up who ends up making the tackle. Again, this is pretty picky as adjusting on the fly at Dotson’s size is no easy task, but this is one aspect that could take Dotson’s game as a blocker from good to exceptional.
However, the athleticism and nastiness Dotson played with on Thursday night epitomized what OL coach Adrian Klemm has been preaching since he took the job of playing with a physical demeanor and running through someone’s face. This rep stood out to me for that very reason, as Dotson comes off the ball on the double team with #60 J.C. Hassenauer and completely displaces the interior defensive lineman across from him opening up a huge hole on the left side for #40 Tony Brooks-James to run through as Dotson continues to drive his man into the middle of the field away from the play.
What are your thoughts on Kevin Dotson’s performance Thursday against the Eagles? Do you think he showed he is deserving of the starting LG spot, or do you think he still has to continue to prove himself worthy over the next couple of preseason games coming back from the injury? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!