Dotson, who has recovered from a preseason knee injury that forced him to spend the first half of the season on short-term injured reserve, was informed on Wednesday that the team has decided to stay with Gosder Cherilus at right tackle for the time being. Dotson, understandably, was not thrilled by the news.
"I want to be out there playing, and that's what I was kind of preparing myself to come back and do," he said. "I was told [it was about] the continuity of the line, you don't want to take guys out right now and things like that. You can kind of understand that in a way, but it's still kind of disappointing."
Tampa Bay's offensive line has played well this season, providing blocking for the league's seventh-ranked rushing attack and allowing just 14 sacks in eight games. Jameis Winston has absorbed just three total sacks in the last three games and the Bucs have at least 117 rushing yards in each of their last five outings. Lovie Smith said that run of success has played a part in the Buccaneers' decision to keep the current starting five intact.
"The continuity part – I'm saying the same thing – we're not going to keep something going just for that sake, but if we like what we've seen when someone has gotten an opportunity to play – and a lot of times that's the case – we will go with that," he said.
Even if he isn't going to be in the starting lineup on Sunday, Dotson gives the Bucs' offensive line a well-timed boost. Rookie Ali Marpet, the team's starter at right guard through the first eight games, was knocked out of last Sunday's game with an ankle injury. If Marpet is unable to play on Sunday against Dallas, the Buccaneers will still be able to dress seven offensive linemen, as usual. Evan Smith would presumably step in at right guard, as he did on Sunday, while Dotson and Kevin Pamphile could be the reserves on the edges and at the interior spots, respectively.
Smith, who was the team's starting center before his own ankle injury, had spent several games backing up Joe Hawley after his return, but he helped the team immensely in a new role on Sunday.
"He did really well," offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. "In college he played tackle, he played his pro career at center, for him to go in [at guard]…he played physical, he gives us another communicator, another guy that can see the defense. He helped Joe, he helped Jameis. We were really pleased with how he played at guard."
That the Bucs had an experienced starter ready to step in for Marpet, and now have another one in Dotson serving as a ready-to-go substitute, underscores the type of depth the team has rarely had along the offensive line.
"Again, it's great to have that problem, number one," said Koetter. "Let's start with that. How many teams can say they have guys that aren't playing as much as they would like to that are capable starters in the NFL, especially on the O-line, so we are in a great position there. That is mostly Coach [Lovie] Smith's area so that would be a better question for [him]. From where I sit, I look at it as a great problem to have and whoever is out there, where going to be fine with them."
It is also possible that Marpet will have healed sufficiently enough to play this coming Sunday without missing a game, though he was unable to practice on Wednesday. Even if that timetable proves too aggressive, it appears that the standout rookie will not be missing for an extended period of time.
"That's what we're working on right now, so we'll see, " said Marpet, who hasn't missed a game due to injury since high school. "Obviously those kinds of injuries happen a lot with offensive linemen and sometimes those are knees, so yeah, it could have been a lot worse. It still sucks being out."
PHOTOS: CHEERLEADERS DURING WEEK 9
Marpet said he did not have a more serious high-ankle sprain and he feels good about the way in which it has responded to treatment over the last several days.
"Yeah, absolutely," he said, regarding his positive progress. "In high school, I had ankle sprains before playing basketball, so I sort of know how my body reacts to it."