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Turner: Dotson brings production, versatility, availability to Commanders offense

The Washington Commanders weren't long into their draft process when they realized they would really like having Jahan Dotson on their team. ​​

In fact, the Commanders liked the idea so much that they only interviewed him once in the months leading up to their first-round selection. Those meetings are for players who have some lingering questions surrounding them, and that wasn't the case with Dotson. They knew what kind of person he was and how that would fit into their culture.

But that's only part of the reason why the Commanders were so set on taking Dotson in a receiver-heavy 2022 draft class. Most of that centers around what he adds to their scheme, and based on what he did at Penn State, they feel like he fits in there, too.

"It's exciting when you add a player like that to the mix of what we already feel is kind of an up and coming group," offensive coordinator Scott Turner told senior vice president of media and content Julie Donaldson.

Dotson, a four-year player for the Nittany Lions, improved each season and is coming off a career-high 91 receptions for 1,182 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was "the guy" for that offense, Turner said, and it was clear to him how much Penn State's offense was fueled by Dotson's production.

Other defenses in the Big Ten noticed it, too, and a large chunk of their plans involved stopping him. It didn't matter to Dotson.

"They knew the ball was going to him, but he was still making plays," Ron Rivera said after the first round. "And that's what gets you excited when, especially when you put the tape on and you watch game after game and you see him catching seven, eight, nine, 10 balls a game."

Turner pointed to his games against Ohio State in 2020 and 2021 as some of the best examples of Dotson's skillset. He made a combined 19 catches for 271 yards in those matchups while also grabbing three touchdowns in 2020.

With the slightest bit of sarcasm, Turner said, "I'm pretty sure they were trying to stop him."

There are a few reasons why Dotson was so productive at Penn State -- he received comparisons to Steve Smith and DeSean Jackson from Rivera -- but the most prevalent is that he plays bigger than his 5-foot-11, 180-pound frame.

The mentality allows Dotson to excel at contested catches. He only had two drops in 2021, and his career drop rate is just 3.5%, which is the lowest of the entire draft class.

"He has a really good body control," Turner said. "Really good catch radius and great ball skills. He's a hand-catcher … He's a very easy person to throw to."

Getting that good at catching passes took years of hard work on his part. After all, he treats the ball like it's $1 million in the air, so it takes plenty of time and effort to make sure he gets his pay day.

"It's more just the hard work that I've put in over the years, and just my focus on what really matters to me, and that's catching the football."

Dotson started 38 games at Penn State, so there's no doubt from the Commanders' coaching staff that he will be available, despite playing a more physical style with smaller measurables. And when he's on the field, he's able to move around the formation; he lined up in the slot for 16% of his snaps in his college career.

"He'll be able to do that in our offense as well," said Turner, who likes to move players around to give them the best chance to succeed during plays.

Dotson, like the rest of the Commanders’ eight-player rookie class, hasn't been fully immersed in the offense yet. About two weeks ago was his first day of rookie minicamp, so he still has a long way to go before he's being used to the extent the coaches envision.

But based on the nuggets of information we've received, there will be plenty of excitement around Dotson once he works in with the rest of the offense.

"So I'm excited for the opportunity," Dotson said after he was drafted. "Can't wait to see what Coach Turner has in store."

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