- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Left guard Derrick Dockery stands out even among a quintet as big as the Washington Redskins’ starting offense line.

He’s 6-foot-6 and 335 pounds, the largest of line coach Joe Bugel’s “Dirtbags.” And at 24, he’s also the youngest of the linemen.

Of course, Dockery, whose entire contract pays him less than half of the smallest signing bonus of any of his four fellow starters, also has the most room for improvement on a line that features one guy who has been to the Pro Bowl and two others who have come close to elite status.

“You don’t find that many guys that big and strong with that kind of athletic ability,” two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels said admiringly. “Dock hasn’t peaked yet. The sky’s the limit for him. He’s going to make a nice payday someday if he stays healthy and continues to play well.”

In fact, Dockery, Washington’s third-round pick in the 2003 draft — he was rated the top guard by some scouts — can void his contract and become a restricted free agent in March if he remains in the lineup. But for the moment, Dockery is focused on joining his fellow starters as reliable blockers.

“Everybody says I have potential, but potential doesn’t mean anything,” said Dockery, an All-American and Outland Trophy semifinalist as a senior at Texas. “Everybody says wonderful things about me. I don’t want to let them down. If I do my job, I’ll get it done. I have to show that every Sunday. I’m my hardest critic. If I mess up on even one play, I’m thinking about what I can do to correct it.”

No Redskin has seen that attitude more this summer than defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, who battles Dockery every day.

“Dock has more focus and determination, and he’s a lot more violent with his punch this year,” Griffin said. “If you beat him, he wants to know why. He’ll ask, ‘Why did you make that move?’ He competes. He doesn’t accept defeat. He wants to get better.”

If that’s going to happen, Dockery is going to have cut down on his penalties. Like George Starke, the only member of Bugel’s 1980s-era “Hogs” who never made a Pro Bowl, Dockery is famous for the frequency of his penalties. Dockery was flagged six times in his first four games after he took over for the injured Dave Fiore in his rookie year of 2003. Last season, Dockery led the line with 10 penalties — seven false starts and three holds.

“Every time, you turned on the film, it was the same things over and over,” said center Cory Raymer, who started next to Dockery in 2004. “False starts, footwork and balance. But Dock has taken to heart what Buges has taught him and soaked it in like a sponge instead of fighting it and saying, ‘This is the way I’ve always done it.’ He accepted the fact that there are some things he has to work on. He’s been getting better and better. He can be something special.”

Dockery missed much of the 2004 conditioning program following shoulder surgery, but he was a workout regular alongside Samuels this offseason. Dockery also got married, adding more responsibility. All told, Dockery feels primed for his best season. He has had just one penalty in the preseason, a holding call last week against Pittsburgh.

“I’m maturing and growing up,” Dockery said. “This is my job, so I’m putting more time and effort into it. I’m stronger because I had a whole offseason to work out. I’m not jealous because the rest of the guys make a lot more than I do, but you shouldn’t want any less for yourself. If you just want to be average, why be here?”

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