Adding Dockery the Right Move

The Dallas Cowboys had a lot of plans this offseason, not the least of which was their intent to get younger and more athletic on the offensive line.

The team took the first step last year when Doug Free was inserted at left tackle. As soon as the NFL lockout was lifted, greybeards Leonard Davis and Marc Colombo were shown the door.

The youth movement is crucial to the team's future, but it could turn out at that the best personnel move of the offseason had nothing to do with right tackle Tyron Smith or guard Bill Nagy, each of whom is expected to start the team's season-opener against the New York Jets.

In the shuffling of the line, Dallas coaches decided to slide veteran guard Kyle Kosier from the left side to the right, where he could shepherd Smith into life as an NFL starter. After veteran guard Montrae Holland struggled with his weight and health during training camp, Nagy was pegged to step in at left guard, between Free and center Phil Costa, who inherited his position when he beat out longtime starter Andre Gurode, prompting the team to waive Gurode.

But then the Cowboys cut Holland and signed veteran free agent guard Derrick Dockery, a veteran of two stints with the Washington Redskins and one with the Buffalo Bills (not to mention a college career at the University of Texas and a high school career at Garland's Lakeview Centennial High School). There is no reason to believe Smith won't grow into the player the Cowboys envisioned when they selected him with the ninth pick in the NFL Draft in April, but at least for the short term, it just might be Dockery who turns out to be the team's most important offseason acquisition.

At 30 years old, Dockery is two years younger than Kosier, and while Kosier is a very underrated athlete, Dockery is quicker and more agile than both Kosier and Holland. As hard as it might be to imagine someone over 300 pounds being "light on his feet," that description fits Dockery. When he pulls for a running back, he has the strength to flatten a defensive lineman and the balance and quickness to find a linebacker to open another running lane.

Dockery has not been named a starter, or even given a timeline for when he can expect a starting role, but it would not be a surprise if he unseated Nagy as the starting left guard within a few weeks. That would give the Cowboys a big, athletic line with three veterans to help bring along Costa (who played in four games last year) and Smith.

Dockery fits better in Dallas than he did in Washington, and not just because he grew up in Garland. After Mike Shanahan's arrival in Washington, the Redskins went to a zone blocking scheme like the one Shanahan's Denver Bronco teams had employed. Shanahan decided Dockery didn't fit, and the veteran lineman became little more than a high-priced fan, playing in just five games last season, starting two. Over his previous seven seasons, Dockery played in 16 games every year, starting in 13 games as a rookie and 16 games in each season thereafter.

In Dallas, he joins a line that utilizes a more traditional blocking scheme, with linemen using both athleticism and power, both of which Dockery has in ample supply. Nagy has shown the ability to play in the scheme, but as a rookie drafted in the seventh round, he lacks polish and could benefit from a year of Dockery's tutelage.

Whether Dockery's tenure with the Cowboys lasts beyond his one-year contract that he signed with the team remains to be seen. But he should add athleticism, quickness and veteran experience as soon as he gets on the field.

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