Prior to the beginning of the regular season, Los Angeles Rams general manager Les Snead made an under the radar trade that didn’t raise a lot of eyebrows at the time. The Los Angeles Rams acquired guard Kevin Dotson from the Pittsburgh Steelers for a couple of day three picks in 2024 and 2025.
It wasn’t the first time that Snead and the Rams have taken a chance on an AFC North team’s draft pick that has fallen out of favor. In 2019, the Rams traded for former Cleveland Browns second-round pick, Austin Corbett. That move also required the Rams to only give up a future day three draft pick.
The move for Corbett was franchise-altering. It completely shifted the trajectory of the Rams offensive line as they recovered from losing both Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan. While it’s only been three weeks, Dotson appears to have an early trajectory of having a similar level of impact.
When the Rams traded for Dotson, some thought that it was a move to add depth to the offensive line. Now, that may have been some of the reasoning. With that said, Dotson was also a starting level guard in Pittsburgh. His 77.6 pass-blocking grade via Pro Football Focus ranked 10th among guards in 2022 with at least 500 snaps. Dotson’s 16 pressures allowed also ranked 15th.
Adding depth wouldn’t have been a bad thing either. After all, at the time of the trade, the Rams had just cut Logan Bruss who they had been developing at right guard and put him on the practice squad. Joe Noteboom was moving to right guard where he didn’t have a lot of experience.
“While Dotson doesn’t have the same pedigree as Corbett, that doesn’t mean that a change of scenery won’t help him or that he can’t or won’t make an impact on the Rams. It’s a low risk move for the Rams that only has upside. At the very least, Dotson gives Los Angeles depth on the offensive line at a position where they desperately need it.”
That also didn’t mention Noteboom’s injury history. All things considered, it only seemed like a matter of time before Dotson got his opportunity. That opportunity finally came in Week 4.
With Alaric Jackson set to miss his first game of the season, Dotson would start against the Indianapolis Colts at right guard while Noteboom played left tackle. Throughout his career, Dotson had made more of an impact in pass protection. His pass-blocking grades were always considerably higher than his grades in run-blocking according to Pro Football Focus.
However, in his first start with the Rams, Dotson’s impact came in the run game. He finished Week 4 with the third-highest game in run-blocking according to PFF. He trailed only Cordell Volson and Tyler Smith.
Kevin Dotson's presence was immediately felt in the Rams run game. Finished the week as the 3rd-highest graded guard in run-blocking via PFF. pic.twitter.com/0erUQiFQT3— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) October 4, 2023
Noteboom played at left tackle against the Colts, but hasn’t been active on game day since. With Jackson healthy and Dotson playing at his current level, it’s hard to see the former Steelers guard giving his spot back.
In Weeks 1-3, Noteboom and Tremayne Anchrum allowed a combined 12 pressures at right guard. Dotson has allowed three pressures total in the three weeks since taking over as the starter.
Since Week 4, Dotson is the second-highest graded offensive lineman overall according to Pro Football Focus. That includes players at all three positions groups. His 85.1 run-blocking grade ranks fifth among all offensive linemen.
As mentioned earlier, his presence has especially been felt in the run game where he’s been a great fit in the Rams’ “gap” blocking scheme. Over the last three weeks, Kyren Williams has averaged 12.5 yards per carry when running behind Dotson. It’s fair to note that most of that came last week, but that also shows Dotson getting more comfortable in the offense and McVay having more confidence calling run plays that go his direction.
Kevin Dotson just tossing people in the run game. Again, a really nice job by both him and Havenstein. The right side of the the Rams offensive line dominated the second half. pic.twitter.com/QST68EedkA— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) October 17, 2023
Simply put, Dotson has been one of the best guards in the NFL since taking over in Week 4. He seems to be getting more comfortable by the week as the offensive line continues to gel and build continuity.
SumerSports tracks offense EPA per team offensive line grouping. The Rams have had two groups that have featured Dotson in the lineup. This season, those groups are averaging 0.16 and 0.09 EPA per play. These rank as the 11th and 18th most efficient offensive line groupings in the NFL this season.
His comfort level and the growth in chemistry can be seen in his pass-blocking improvement from Week 4 to last week against the Arizona Cardinals. In Week 4, Dotson and Shelton had a miscommunication on passing off a defender as the Colts had their edge rusher “loop” inside.
One of the two sacks the Rams allowed. Looks like a little bit of a miscommunication on the right side with the pass-off.— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) October 4, 2023
Overall, Dotson played really well. Something that comes with playing more as a group. pic.twitter.com/8GCmtC5N28
In a similar play last week, Dotson successfully passed his defender to Havenstein and then took the pass off from Coleman Shelton at center. The result was a 37-yard catch and run from Cooper Kupp. Something like this seems basic, but it shows good communication and chemistry along an offensive line.
It’s worth noting how much better Havenstein has been while playing next to Dotson. In the first three weeks of the season, Havenstein’s best overall grade via PFF was 66.4. He’s surpassed that in each of the past three games. Two of his three best games in pass-blocking have come with Dotson at right guard. His two best games in run-blocking have also come while playing next to Dotson.
Things like this are so under-appreciated when it comes to offensive line play. The ability to pass off defenders shows a growth in chemistry and good communication across the board. pic.twitter.com/xXFUB8xxgH— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) October 19, 2023
That improvement is seen across the offensive line as well. Over the first three weeks of the season, the Rams offensive line averaged a pass-blocking grade of 48.6. Since Dotson has taken over, that number has increased to 63.4. It’s been minimal improvement in the run game, but the offensive line has still seen an improvement from a run-blocking grade of 60.4 to 63.2 with Dotson.
Coming into the season, you could have easily argued that the Rams needed a complete re-haul of their offensive line outside of Avila at left guard and Havenstein at right tackle. Now, the Rams offensive line is arguably just once piece away. They can probably get by with Shelton at center. Find a stud at left tackle in the 2024 NFL Draft and the offensive line will be in a good spot. With Dotson working out as well as he has, it has expedited the offensive line re-building process.
We’re still only three games into Dotson’s time on the Rams and a lot can obviously change. However, there’s no denying his strong start. The Rams have a decision to make on Dotson this offseason as he is currently in the final year of his rookie deal. If he continues to play at his current level, there’s no question that Snead and co. will have to consider bringing him back on an extension.