One of the best moves for the Los Angeles Rams this season has been the trade for offensive lineman Kevin Dotson. Dotson has been starting at right guard since Week 4 and been one of the best all-around offensive linemen in the NFL during that time period. Dotson has been the fifth-highest graded guard via Pro Football Focus since he became a full-time starter for the Rams.
While Dotson wasn’t necessarily seen as a bust in Pittsburgh, he was being phased out as the Steelers signed Isaac Seumalo in free agency along with Nate Herbig. With only five spots on the offensive line, somebody was going to get phased out and that player ended up being Dotson.
On the Sean McVay show on Monday, general manager Les Snead said that talks for Dotson actually started during the Allen Robinson trade. Snead added that the Rams valued what Dotson did in his first few years in Pittsburgh and praised him for how did his job.
This is the second time that Snead has found an offensive lineman via the trade market when it simply didn’t work for another team. The first example was back in 2019 when he traded for Austin Corbett. Dotson didn’t have Corbett’s pedigree, but also fit the type of offensive lineman that the Rams were looking for as they changed their run scheme.
Brandon Thorn who runs the Trench Warfare substack did a film breakdown with Dotson last week. I would definitely recommend subscribing and giving the film room a watch. Thorn is one of the best when it comes to offensive line analysis. He asked Dotson why it’s worked out so well in Los Angeles. Said Dotson,
“I would say the main thing is just being able to be back at right. Being back at right, I didn't realize how much it made a difference for me until I got to play it again. It just came back to me within a week of practice that I was like the right side is where I’m meant to be. Even in Pittsburgh, they said my best years were when I got to play the right. Switching to left, I feel like I didn’t do bad at left, but it just made sense for me to be at right. When they switched me to left, it’s something that I had too learn totally new. I think a lot of offensive linemen know that going from right to left when you play right since high school, you have to do a lot of re-wiring. Being able to get back to right made a huge difference for me.”
At Louisiana, Dotson played all of almost his 3,400 snaps at right guard. However, outside of his rookie year when it was almost an even split, the Steelers played Dotson primarily on the left side. His rookie year was his best, especially from a pass-protecting standpoint. It makes sense that he would feel more comfortable on the right side given that’s where most of his previous experience had come. There seems to be a narrative that offensive linemen can easily move from the right side to the left side or from guard to tackle. However, while true for some players, others prefer one side or one position over another.
Again, I would definitely recommend giving the video a watch. The video on YouTube is a five-minute preview of an almost hour-long interview and film breakdown. In the preview, Thorn and Dotson break down the play below from the game in Week 4 against the Indianapolis Colts. That was Dotson’s first start with the Rams.
That Kevin Dotson trade before the season by the Rams has had nice returns already based on how well he played the last two weeks. He's been a plus player with several impact blocks. Play strength! pic.twitter.com/LuI3vaSRjt— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) October 13, 2023
When talking about the Rams offense Dotson said,
“I feel like this outside zone is a little different because it’s not a lot of reading. It’s not a lot of thinking of who you’re going to. You know who you’re going to and now you’re only thinking about the angles...It kind of feels like more of a power play than a finesse play to me now because I get to run full speed and now I can go as hard as I can. I think I just like the aspects of that...We never really ran mid-zone in Pittsburgh, but I like how the mid-zone play works, just being able to have that cutback at all times. You don’t really have to stop somebody from going a certain way. I think that makes the block way easier than really having to muscle somebody out of there.”
The Rams are going to have an interesting decision to make when it comes to Dotson this offseason. In the past, they’ve decided not to pay guards when they potentially should have. Following 2018, the Rams didn’t bring back Rodger Saffold. That wasn’t the first time they made that decision. Back in 2014, Saffold had a deal done with the Raiders and would have signed there had they not failed his physical.
After the 2021 season, the Rams decided not to bring back Austin Corbett. The result was disaster in 2022.
Would the Rams make that same decision this offseason with Dotson or learn from past mistakes? Last week, PFF projected Dotson’s value in free agency to be worth over $17M per year. You could argue that signing Dotson for that much would be an overcorrection on past mistakes.
According to PFF, Dotson has struggled the past three weeks. He gave up a season-high six pressures against the Baltimore Ravens. With that being said, it’s also likely not a coincidence that his three worst games have come when Joe Noteboom was the primary right tackle.
To put it this way, when Noteboom has been the right tackle, the Rams offensive line has an EPA per play of -0.09. When it’s Rob Havenstein at right tackle, that jumps up to 0.09. Now, that speaks more to Havenstein’s value that Dotson’s. With that being said, Havenstein and Dotson have been one of the best offensive line duos on the right side when they are on the field together.
The Rams are expected to get Rob Havenstein back this week. It will be interesting to see the effect that has on Dotson.