Defensive lineman Darnell Dockett is determined to have a big year in 2012.
FLAGSTAFF – If it's possible for a player as loud and brash, for a defensive captain who has tweeted about his pet alligators and has engaged in his share of trash talk, to be under the radar, Darnell Dockett ended up there.
And that, Dockett acknowledges, "is good," because it means his focus is in the right place.
"I want to have a big year," the defensive lineman said. "I got put in a situation last year with a new defense and my name kind of died down. It wasn't because of me. But now I'm learning (the defense) and making the most of it, and I'm going to be a beast."
As a defensive end in coordinator Ray Horton's base 3-4 scheme, Dockett wasn't used the same as he had been used in years past. It made 2011 a long transition and Horton admitted there was a philosophical battle with Dockett at first. Dockett's tackles total was about the same as previous years, but his 3½ sacks were his lowest total since 2006.
Horton said it took some time to develop a trust with Dockett in regards to the scheme he was now playing.
"He said, 'No, this is what I do best,' " Horton said. "I said, 'That's not true.' And he was kind of like, 'Well, who are you to tell me what I do best?' It was a give and take."
Horton smiled when noting that Dockett had been the first player to call him when he was first hired, but the last guy to come on board.
The frustration was evident sometimes, less on the field than off, early last season. But as Dockett began to embrace his role – and learn more of what the Cards wanted to do – he evolved. One of Horton's major arguments was the example of fellow defensive end Calais Campbell, who had a career year, as proof of what Dockett could do in the scheme.
"Calais was my selling point," Horton said.
Now Dockett can't think of anything but mastering the defense.
"It isn't like last year," Dockett said. "Started off 1-and-6, you question yourself, you question the defense, you question the coaches, you question the players. Everyone wants to look around and nobody wants to look at themselves.
"Then we won all those games. For me personally, I just want to make sure this is all second nature. I know it already. But I want to know it better."
Now Dockett has been "phenomenal," Horton said, in working to learn and understand what is needed. The Cardinals have what could be an outstanding line, with Campbell and Dockett teaming with a revitalized and healthy nose tackle Dan Williams and depth with emerging second-year swingman David Carter and veterans Vonnie Holliday and Nick Eason.
Dockett has backed off some on Twitter and his once omnipresent contract issues are far in the past. Defensively, players like Campbell, Peterson, Sam Acho and Daryl Washington have received more attention of late.
If the season works out the way Dockett plans, he'll get to be "a beast" and everyone will notice him again.
"I'm still Darnell," Dockett said. "I still talk (expletive.) I'll still (expletive) you up. I'll still do all that. Now, though, I want to know what I'm doing every day (defensively). When I hear a call, I want to know it from jump. Once I learn that, then I'm back on top of the radar again."