If there was one obvious normality that has been lacking so far this season, it's been the presence of Darnell Dockett on defense. In six seasons prior to this year, Dockett arguably became the most dynamic defensive tackle in the league, and has wreaked havoc in the trenches. Be that as it may, the emotional end has been blanketed by offensive lines through the first ten games this season.
It's frustating that a player with his talents and [newly founded]leadership has been just a blip on the opponents' radar. Perhaps offensive coordinators have figured out his weakness -- the 3-4 defense.
The full-time change to a true 3-4 defense and a permanent switch to the outside of the defensive line may have created a bigger side effect then was once thought before. Dockett has only registered 33 tackles, 2 sacks, and 1 forced fumble through the first 10 games. Considering that the ends in the 3-4 defense aren't the only source of quarterback pressure, I won't lynch him for the numbers. Pinpointing the source of the struggling stats makes for an interesting inquiry nonetheless.
This season alone we've heard Dockett's name mentioned less than any other. It could be that his numbers are severely lacking. He's averaged 6.5 sacks the last three seasons and is on pace for 3 this year. I believe it's centered around something else -- he's been inserted into a defense that sets him up to struggle. The defensive end in the 3-4 already faces numerous blockers. Dockett's resume pressures opponents to account for him on the strong side of the field. With the lone defensive tackle eating up space usually against the center, the guard, tackle, and/or tight end can primarily focus on Dockett and a possible outside linebacker. I've drawn up an illustration to support my thoughts:
Opposing offenses can't and won't use four blockers on Dockett every down, but it creates more blocking possibilities. With no pressure coming from the Cardinals outside linebackers this season, it has created a bigger issue along the defensive line. Dockett flourished in the 4-3 defense for two reasons: One, because he played alongside another defensive tackle and was able to penetrate one one one with interior lineman. And two, Dockett's combination of quickness and strength made it easier for him to blow past a slower guard then a quicker tackle.
With players like Albert Haynesworth complaining about scheme changes, I wonder how long before Dockett speaks out. He isn't afraid to voice his opinion. He's a competitor and would like to use his abilities to the best, and rightfully so. I also would like to see the Dockett of year's past that bullied opposing teams. To do that in the 3-4, the Cardinals would need to utilize Dockett by bouncing him to the inside and bring the blitz from the outside -- successfully. Unfortunately that defensive scheme won't come very often.
Although the remainder of this season appears to be over, the Cardinals would be wise to make the best of it. Find talent, build chemistry, and make the changes that will benefit this team in the future. Most importantly, allow the leaders of this team to carry the younger players on their shoulders. I can certainly see the front office making moves to benefit the team. Nevertheless, there is an empty feeling when the Cardinals take the field on defense. A player that we have all grown to love has gone missing. What are your thoughts on Darnell Dockett and how can the Cardinals utilize him better?