- The Washington Times - Friday, November 5, 2004

Derrick Dockery’s toughest tests back in 2000 came on the University of Texas practice field, where the Longhorns’ sophomore guard battled defensive tackles Shaun Rogers and Casey Hampton.

Dockery, now the Washington Redskins’ starter on the left side, is about to have a reunion with Rogers, who rapidly is rising into the NFL’s upper echelon of interior defensive linemen. The two will see plenty of each other Sunday when the Redskins play the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

“All the time in practice we battled, and he got me better,” Dockery recalled yesterday. “[Me] being a young guy, being able to go against him and Casey Hampton helped me a lot. When I went out [to play] on Saturday, it was easy for me.”

Hampton is now a Pro Bowl nose tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Redskins’ opponent Nov.28, who drafted him in 2001’s first round. Rogers, meanwhile, slipped into that draft’s second round because of questions about his motivation and a high ankle sprain that kept him from working out at the NFL combine.

Still, there was talk that Rogers had some of the draft’s best pure talent, and now he’s proving it. Putting his remarkably agile 6-foot-4, 345-pound frame to good use, Rogers already has matched his career high with four sacks and seems almost certain to play in his first Pro Bowl.

“He’s probably one of the most dominating tackles that we’ll play against this year,” said Redskins assistant head coach for offense Joe Bugel. “The guy is phenomenal. I’m not just saying it to say it. Him and [Dan] Wilkinson make a tremendous pair. Rogers, if he stays on pace right now, could be one of the best if not the best defensive tackle in the NFL.”

Wilkinson, of course, was a Redskins starter from 1998 to 2002. He and Rogers shift around plenty on the Lions’ interior, so the matchups with Redskins interior linemen will fluctuate throughout the game.

No cheapies

Not surprisingly, there’s a sizeable difference in the tackle totals Redskins coaches compile after reviewing game tape and those the NFL maintains. Tackles aren’t an official statistic, so clubs are free to keep their own numbers.

But assistant head coach for defense Gregg Williams swears there aren’t any cheapies being given out by his staff. Defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin has 54 tackles according to coaches and just 35 according to NFL.com, but Williams stood by his number.

“A lot of times [league statisticians] don’t hand out the assists in the proper way,” Williams said. “We don’t give any what we call ‘JOPs’ — jump-on-piles. Cornelius Griffin has been a dominant football player for us. He’s probably as active of an interior lineman as I’ve ever had a chance to coach.”

Griffin, by the way, remains on pace for about 123 tackles. Washington’s leader last season, based on coaches’ stats, was linebacker Jeremiah Trotter with 120. The leading defensive lineman was tackle Bernard Holsey (40).

Odd wager

Coach Joe Gibbs opened practice by settling a late-night bet among Redskins coaches: Who’s more flexible, 41-year-old offensive tackle Ray Brown or blue-collar defensive tackle Brandon Noble?

As a driving rain intensified at Redskin Park and the players circled around hooting and hollering, Brown and Noble sat on the turf and tried to touch their toes. Noble later reported that the contest was deemed a draw.

“I don’t know,” Noble said. “I was too busy trying not to pop a hamstring to see what Ray was doing. I’m not sure what those guys were thinking about at 1 in the morning.”

Despite a cold, persistent rain, players seemed to be having a terrific time on the AstroTurf field.

“You have to [enjoy yourself],” Noble said. “It could be really miserable out there. But this team isn’t like that. We’re 2-5, and we seem to have more fun when we’re running around and really hitting each other.”

Extra points

Wide receiver James Thrash, who was flagged for a controversial illegal motion penalty Sunday that wiped out the potential game-winning touchdown, said he isn’t changing his tactics to comply with the seemingly random call. However, he did say he might consult with referees before the Lions game “to make sure everything’s clear.” …

Punter Tom Tupa has been victimized for a league-high 382 return yards, but he attributes much of that to his league-leading 50 punts. Said Tupa: “Other than [two big returns], guys have been doing a great job.”

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