The Bucs will be without John Gilmore (head injury) when they travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks this Sunday. Gilmore is considered Tampa Bay's best blocking tight end. The Bucs are attempting to fill the void left by Gilmore by playing rookie tackle Demar Dotson at tight end.
Tampa Bay's offense will be without John Gilmore when they travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks on Sunday.
Gilmore, who injured his head in last Sunday's loss to the New York Jets, is considered the Bucs' best blocking tight end. Although the team has tight ends Kellen Winslow and Jerramy Stevens on their 53-man roster, the Bucs are turning to another player to help fill the void left by Gilmore, moving rookie reserve offensive tackle Demar Dotson over to play tight end on some plays.
"John Gilmore being out, we're still trying to find a way to aid us in protection there," Bucs offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. "We've now moved Dotson in some at tight end to help us in that area with our run game and with some protection issues. We're trying to find solutions."
The 6-foot-9, 315-pound Dotson is considered an exceptional athlete, and at the very least a versatile one. Remarkably, Dotson didn't play his first season of football at Southern Miss until 2008. Before then, Dotson spent two seasons as a member of the Golden Eagles' basketball team.
And even when he earned a spot on his college football team, Dotson was a defensive lineman, not an offensive tackle.
Dotson's athleticism was one of the main selling points to the Bucs when they signed him as an undrafted free agent during the spring. However, athleticism isn't the only thing that's convinced the Bucs to keep Dotson around on their active roster this season.
"You have to have some athleticism to play basketball at the Division I-A level," said Dotson. "My athleticism helps me a lot, but I don't rely on it by itself. You have to be strong and assignment sound and solid from a technique standpoint."
Winslow and Stevens still will see the majority of action at tight end, and for good reason. Winslow leads the Bucs in receptions with 62 for 659 yards and five touchdowns. Stevens has contributed 13 receptions and one score.
However, the Bucs feel Dotson can help the Bucs most in running situations. Tampa Bay's running game has struggled mightily this year, averaging just 98 yards per game and failing to produce a 100-yard rusher in each of its 13 regular season games.
"It's a few blocking plays," Dotson said of his role at tight end. "I'm familiar with the scheme, obviously, and with Gilmore hurt they put me in on some power plays. I've been doing it for a few weeks. Now I'm just getting more reps doing it."
Dotson saw some limited action at right tackle a few weeks ago when Bucs head coach Raheem Morris benched starter Jeremy Trueblood for undisciplined play. Dotson said he's willing to do whatever it takes to get on the football field again, even if it means playing another position.
"Anything to get on the field is good for me," said Dotson. "I haven't come close to mastering the tackle game yet, but I'm in the process of getting better there. But if there's a way I can get on the field and help my team I'm going to do it.
"I feel I've come a long way, but in my mind I haven't come far enough. I have a long way to go. This is just the start as far as I'm concerned."
Dotson used his frame to block defenders on the basketball court. Now he'll use it to block off the line of scrimmage in an effort to open holes for Bucs running backs Cadillac Williams, Derrick Ward, Earnest Graham and rookie Kareem Huggins.
Basketball players have to be able to catch the ball before they shoot it, so does Dotson have the hands to haul in the football from rookie quarterback Josh Freeman on any passing downs?
"I don't know. I think they need to throw me a ball and find out," said Dotson.
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