The 5 o’clock club is published from time to time during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.
Jahan Dotson was pretty damned successful with nearly the entire route tree in his 2022 rookie season.
Dotson lost 5 games to a hamstring injury as a rookie, yet still managed 523 yards and 7 touchdowns (14.9 yards per reception) in 12 games.
In a February article, Mark Bullock had this to say about Jahan Dotson’s expected role in Eric Bieniemy’s offense:
One of the first things Bieniemy will have to decide on with this group of receivers, and particularly with Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel, is who is the Z receiver and who is the slot receiver. Last year we saw Dotson and Samuel switch between those roles pretty regularly throughout the season and the roles do have a lot of crossover, so I suspect the defined lines of Z and slot receiver will be blurred somewhat. While the pair may well continue to flip roles, I think Dotson will ultimately become the primary Z receiver because he’s better than Samuel with precision and timing routes while Samuel is a more versatile and movable piece from the slot.
Being precise with steps, breaks and timings is critical in the west coast offense. The system is built on the quarterback being able to take his drop, match his feet with his eyes and throw with anticipation, trusting his receiver to break at the right time so the ball arrives as he’s breaking open.
That level of timing and trust takes a while for a receiver and quarterback to develop. Fortunately for Washington and Bieniemy, Dotson and Howell appear to already be on the same page in that regard.
That’s a good sign for Washington and Bieniemy that there is already a foundation of a connection from that pair, which should also help Dotson’s case to be the Z receiver. But there’s far more to the Z receiver role than just running timing routes. The Z receiver can be moved all over the field and run a variety of different routes, which often see them working inside and over the middle. Dotson doesn’t necessarily have the frame or bulk of some receivers typically associated with working over the middle
This final sentence is borne out somewhat by the route tree posted at the top of the article.
Many fans will think getting open deep is all about speed, and sure at times it’s just about who is faster, but there’s also a lot more nuance involved than that. For a rookie, Dotson had an advanced level of understanding of the tempo of certain routes. It’s not all about running at full speed. Sometimes it’s better to set up routes by running under control before suddenly accelerating past a defender.
I suspect Bieniemy will identify that trait and look to lean into that for shots down the field, especially when he moves Dotson into the slot. When Tyreek Hill was with the Chiefs, a lot of his shots down the field came from the slot where he used tempo to set up the route.
Dotson isn’t as fast as Hill, very few people are, but he’s by no means slow. He also, critically, understands that the speed isn’t the most important factor, it’s the tempo of the route. Being able to run the route under control and giving himself an extra gear to go to when he needs it is what makes those deeper routes so effective, and Dotson showed good understanding of how to do exactly that.
Overall I think Dotson will prove to be an incredibly valuable weapon for Bieniemy in this offense. He’ll likely start off as the Z receiver where his precise route running can shine through, but Bieniemy won’t restrict him to that role. He’ll be able to move around and line up in the slot where they can also show off his quickness and work in combination with other receivers, particularly Terry McLaurin, to provide all sorts of stress to the coverage structures of opposing defenses.
In a pair of polls posted last week, Hogs Haven members said that they expect Terry McLaurin to get about 1,250-1,300 yards and 7-8 touchdowns in 2023 — basically, a slight uptick from his 2022 season.
There’s good reason to believe that Jahan Dotson can have a breakout season. Many people are predicting that he will eventually eclipse Terry McLaurin’s production. If that happens, the Commanders should be in a position to reward him with a generous contract; McLaurin’s current deal runs through 2025, which will be Dotson’s 4th season. For at least the next three years, we will have the pleasure of seeing two skilled receivers working together to stress opposing defenses.
Predict Jahan Dotson’s receiving yards for the 2023 season.
This poll is closed
1,500 or more
less than 800
Predict Jahan Dotson’s TD total for the 2023 season.
This poll is closed
11 or more
9 or 10
7 or 8
5 or 6
4 or less