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What does Demar Dotson give the Broncos?

Can the former Buc solidify the right tackle spot?

NFL: New England Patriots at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
RT1?
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Broncos have signed Demar Dotson, it’s time to dive into what he brings to the roster. Last week the Broncos learned that Ja’Wuan James would opt out of the 2020 NFL season, which left them with Elijah Wilkinson at right tackle, Garett Bolles at left, and unproven depth behind them.

Every report from the Broncos since James opted out has signaled that Elijah Wilkinson has a leg up on the tackle job, but I seriously doubt Dotson would have signed if he didn’t think he had a chance to start.

Who is Demar Dotson?

In a league where the average career lasts three years and change, it’s remarkable how Dotson found a way to start 130 games over 11 seasons. An undrafted free agent out of Jerry Rice’s Alma Mater, Dotson was given a camp invite by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2009. He’d never played a single snap at offensive tackle and on the first day of practice had to cut holes in the cleats he borrowed because the Bucs’ training staff didn’t have size 18s.

After a number of attempts to replace him, the Bucs moved on from the 34-year old Dotson to clear a path to playing time for the 20-year old Tristan Wirfs to protect 43-year old Tom Brady this year.

Dotson is a capable pass protector.

What does Dotson do well?

At 6’9” Dotson is at the top end for height for an offensive tackle, while his 315 lb frame meets the league average. He is a solid athlete for such a large man with the kind of body control and dexterity you’d expect from a former basketball player. His experience shows through in his anticipation of both rush moves and pursuit angles. He displays solid competitive toughness in how he battles down after down with consistency, and doesn’t shy away from tight moments like third and forever.

There’s a subtlety to Dotson’s game that takes time to appreciate. He has patient hands and displays good placement in both the run and pass game, which helps to make up for many of the issues he should face with his height. Once he latches onto an opponent he knows how to position his body so as to avoid some untimely penalties.

On the play above Tampa Bay is facing third and 11, a must-pass situation. Cameron Jordan’s lined up wide enough to get a head of steam towards the pocket, so Dotson doesn’t hesitate to get into his kick slide. There’s no panic in his game as he keeps his hands low and ready to strike at the first sign of danger. Jordan tries a rip move, but rather than get tangled up and grab the Bucs’ right tackle keeps his feet moving and keeps Jameis Winston out of the Pro Bowler’s reach.

Dotson’s patience on third and 11 really impressed me.

He’s a good pass protector, especially in vertical sets where he has to kick out to wide rushes. He’s light enough on his feet and quick enough to reset that he can shift back inside to protect an inside gap against late pressure. He doesn’t overextend and leave himself grasping at air, but instead sets back to react to his opponent. He also displays the kind of mental acuity to handle stunts without trouble.

Dotson’s strengths in the running game stem from many of the same skills that help him shine in pass protection. He has no problem throwing his body around to impede pursuit and does a good job climbing off of double teams to reach the second level. He’s also solid at cutting off backside pursuit or driving down to double a defensive tackle.

Dotson does a nice job blocking down onto Aaron Donald with eyes to climb to the linebacker.

Where does Dotson struggle?

Bruce Arians didn’t mince words when he pointed out his former tackles’ shortcomings.

“I mean he can still pass block. I mean, to me, that’s where you start. Can he get better in the running game? Yeah. But, you know, sometimes you’re asking a guy [and] he just physically can’t do something. I’ve had a couple of tackles that were really good pass blockers that couldn’t cut off to the left. Don’t ask him to. It’s no secret. We’ll run some plays just one way. Alright. It’s the only [play] in the game and we’re going to run it right. They know it. We know it. Stop it. You know, but don’t ask him to do a bunch of that. You still have to do some of it. But don’t ask him to do a bunch of it because he’s going to lose. But he can still block.”

Demar Dotson has adequate play strength, which hurts his ability to drive block and get push at the point of attack. This was a consistent theme across the games I studied and something I’d expect to carry over into his time with the Broncos. Don’t expect many wide zone runs making it off the right tackle if Dotson is leading the way.

Dotson’s height hurts his ability to dig out and drive opponents at the point of attack.

Dotson’s subpar strength also shows up in pass protection, where he has an adequate anchor. He’s quite susceptible to the bullrush as his height works against him on deeper pass sets because athletic Edge rushers can get beneath him and into his frame, which puts him on skates. These issues really showed up against the New Orleans SaintsMarcus Davenport and Cameron Jordan.

Shorter players can overpower Dotson if he doesn’t protect his chest.

When Dotson mistimed his hand placement and exposed his chest, it really hurt him against better pass rushers. He does not have the kind of lead in his pants to hold his ground if an opponent gets under him with control. This was most obvious against Chandler Jones of the Arizona Cardinals.

Dotson will have issues against pass rushers with strong bull rushes or speed-to-power moves.

What does Demar Dotson give the Broncos?

If he can pick up the Broncos playbook and pick up where he left off in 2019, Demar Dotson should be a viable alternative at the starting right tackle spot. He has the tools to help the running game on downblocks, double teams, cutting off backside pursuit, and should push Elijah Wilkinson and Garett Bolles in pass protection. He’s not the kind of tackle to lead the way at the point of attack or push a pile, and Drew Lock will need to account for his issues against power rushers.

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Will Demar Dotson start at right tackle?

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  • 78%
    Yes.
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    No.
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