After Two Years in Buffalo, Redskins' Dockery Feels He's Back Where He Belongs

Left guard Derrick Dockery (66, taking on Albert Haynesworth, left, in camp) kept his offseason home in the area while playing two seasons in Buffalo.
Left guard Derrick Dockery (66, taking on Albert Haynesworth, left, in camp) kept his offseason home in the area while playing two seasons in Buffalo. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
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By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 10, 2009

Before bringing Derrick Dockery back into the fold, Vinny Cerrato, the Redskins' executive vice president of football operations, said he studied tape and consulted with people familiar with the left guard's time away from Washington.

"I talked with one national guy who was up in Buffalo this year," Cerrato said, "and they said the thing that happened with Dock up there, every Monday they'd catch him in a room by himself, and he'd be watching the Redskins games. It's like his heart was never into it up there."

After spending two years with the Bills, Dockery is back with the Washington offensive line for Sunday's season opener at the New York Giants, not complementing the unit as much as he's completing it.

In fact, everyone from his fellow linemen to quarterback Jason Campbell and running back Clinton Portis agree that with Dockery back, the line should be noticeably better than last season. The Redskins will begin compiling evidence to support such a claim against one of the league's best defensive lines on Sunday, but they already showed modest improvement during the preseason.

Campbell was sacked 38 times last season, which made him the fourth-most sacked quarterback in the league. But in four preseason games this year, the first-string unit didn't allow Campbell to be sacked.

"But we still got to work on technique. He got pressured a couple of times, and we just want to keep him clean," Dockery said.

While the team spent freely to improve its defense in the offseason, many fans and pundits point out that the front office ignored the one of the team's biggest weaknesses -- its offensive line -- in the draft, and Dockery was the only splashy upgrade via free agency. Cerrato disagrees with the criticism, pointing out two of the five starting linemen are new.

A year removed from having the oldest offensive line in the league, Cerrato thinks the additions of Dockery at left guard and a healthy Stephon Heyer at right tackle will pay huge dividends.

The Redskins played the bulk of last season with the oldest line in the NFL -- an average age of 32. With Heyer healthy and 28-year-old Dockery replacing Pete Kendall, the line's average age will be less than 30 to start the season.

"So I think we got younger, which we needed to," said Cerrato, "and we got somewhat bigger."

The preseason included matchups against three of the league's best defenses -- Baltimore, New England and Pittsburgh -- which is a good way to prepare for their Week 1 opponent.

The Redskins' first test also will be among the season's toughest challenges, as the Giants' defensive line is among the NFL's best. They bring a varied, talented attack, with roving defensive ends Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora and bruising tackles Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins. In fact, their second-string tackles -- Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard -- could start for many teams.

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