Dockery Making an Impression
Friday, August 6, 2010

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

It was late in Super Bowl XLII and the underdog Giants were clinging to a 10-7 lead against mighty New England.

The Patriots had been held in check most of the day but suddenly found themselves piecing together their best drive of the day. Slot receiver Wes Welker, after being limited most of the game, went to work.

Welker caught one pass for a gain of 5 then another for a gain of 13 and then again for 10 more yards.

On the New York sideline, backup cornerback Kevin Dockery approached defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and asked for a shot to go in and try his hand at slowing Welker and halting the drive.

“I said ‘Coach, put me in, I can cover the guy,’” Dockery said. “That’s my mentality. I feel I can cover any receiver in the NFL and that’s what I want to do.”

Spagnuolo stuck with his personnel and the Giants went on to pull the upset anyway. But when Dockery became a free agent this offseason after New York declined to tender an offer, it was a moment Spagnuolo clearly didn’t forget.

“I have a history with Kevin, I love Kevin,” Spagnuolo said. “I’ll never forget...He grabbed me in the middle of the game and said, ‘Coach, let me out there I can cover him’ and I’ve never forgotten that. Those are the kind of guys you want so we feel really lucky we’ve got him here.

“That’s what you’re looking for. That really is what you’re looking for in this league. Kevin has been in it long enough to show that he’s a competitive guy, and everything that you guys are seeing is what we expected.”

The decision to go after Dockery was as easy for Spagnuolo and the Rams as it was for Dockery to come to St. Louis. The team inked him to a one-year deal on March 22 and Dockery immediately embraced his role as the defensive back with the most experience in Spagnuolo’s system.

Almost from the day he arrived in St. Louis, Dockery was plugged in as the team’s top nickel corner and he’s been active on the outside too as other corners have recovered and dealt with injuries.

Entering this training camp, Dockery already felt a great deal of comfort with everything the Rams have to offer, save for the scorching hot St. Louis summer.

“It’s been great,” Dockery said. “I am feeling comfortable with the defense and getting to know the guys in camp. The big part is just adjusting to the heat and humidity here. It’s not like this in New York.”

Admittedly, Dockery says he has had to adjust to that heat and humidity. At the conclusion of every practice, he makes it a point to drink a lot of Gatorade and water, spend some time in the cold tub and take a nap.

Even though he’s got a Super Bowl ring already, Dockery says he’ll never lose the hunger that comes with entering the league as an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State back in 2006.

“It’s a mental thing, you know,” Dockery said. “You have to go out and give 100 percent. You can’t go out there and give 50 percent because then you’re not getting better and you’re not helping the guy across from you get any better. You have to block everything out and give everything you have.”

Dockery’s knowledge of the defensive scheme gave him a jumpstart on the rest of a crowded competition in the second after his arrival in St. Louis.

“That part of it is pretty easy,” Dockery said. “This is my fourth year in the system now so I just came here and hit the ground running. The terminology is pretty much the same; everything is pretty much the same from when I played in New York.

Thus far in training camp, Dockery has been working regularly as the nickel and has even stepped in as one of the starters as Bradley Fletcher’s repetitions have been limited in his return from knee surgery and with Ron Bartell’s recent ankle sprain.

For his part, Dockery says he prefers to play on the outside rather than the slot but that’s only the competitor in him talking. He’s more than willing to take on any role he’s assigned.

“I prefer to play outside,” Dockery said. “I just like that one on one battle with the receiver as a press cover team. I just like being up in a guy’s face all day and giving it to him. But I’m willing to do whatever it takes and whatever is asked of me.”

So far in camp, Dockery has made a habit of making a big play or two in every practice. By his estimation, that will ultimately make him a better player. He’s even put a percentage on it based on the number of practices.

“That’s what I try to do,” Dockery said. “I try to make a play every day. If I do that, I can get better and I figure if I do that, I’ll be about 30 percent better than I was coming into camp.”

Listed at just 5’8, 188 pounds, Dockery doesn’t necessarily fit the description of the big, physical pressing corners that Spagnuolo prefers and has kept such as Bartell, Fletcher and Jerome Murphy.

But that hasn’t kept Dockery from stepping in and performing well on a daily basis. Dockery hears the whispers that say he can’t get the job done because of his size and uses it as motivation. That manifests into one of the feistiest and scrappy players on the Rams practice field.

“That’s a fair assessment,” Dockery said. “I am kind of an undersized corner so I have to bring that tough mentality with me because I know guys are going to try to challenge me, try to block me, try to throw at me so I have to be feisty to discourage all of that.”