Derrick Dockery has learned the ways of the NFL quickly.
He was thrust into a starting role just three games into his NFL career--typically a difficult task for a rookie offensive lineman--and has had to undergo a dramatic shift in blocking scheme and technique due to the changeover in the coaching staff.
Dockery continues to make progress as he learns on the job.
He made his 20th NFL start on Oct. 31 against the Green Bay Packers at FedExField.
"I'm excited about starting, but I still have to keep on getting better," he said during the bye week. "There are a lot of things I can work on: my leverage, staying low, my footwork. Whenever I watch film, I'm always critical of myself. I see that I have a long way to go."
Dockery believes he has the fundamentals of run and pass-blocking down, so now it's a matter of picking up the finer points and studying film of opponents.
He has also taken to studying other offensive linemen around the NFL-players such as Pro Bowl guards Larry Allen of the Dallas Cowboys and Will Shields of the Kansas City Chiefs.
"What they do is, they're consistent," Dockery said. "The great players are always consistent, week-in and week-out. They never fall off."
If there's one lineman Dockery chooses to pattern himself after, it's teammate Randy Thomas, who starts at right guard.
"I watch Randy a lot and the way he's played for the last six years," Dockery said. "He's a great player to mold myself after and I think he should be in the Pro Bowl. I try to learn from him. I ask him questions like, 'What can I do here against a certain player? How should I respond to adversity? How will this help me?' I'm constantly trying to better my game."
Dockery was the Redskins' third-round draft pick out of the University of Texas in 2003.
He was projected to back up veteran guard Dave Fiore last season, but when Fiore experienced lingering soreness in his left knee, Dockery was elevated to the starting lineup.
In his rookie year, Dockery had growing pains.
Perhaps the most notable play was against Buffalo when he pulled right on a play and inadvertently tripped quarterback Patrick Ramsey.
A week later, during the Redskins' bye, Dockery spent extra time working on his technique. The results showed. He limited Dallas Cowboys' defensive tackle La'Roi Glover to just one tackle in the following game.
When assistant head coach-offense Joe Bugel returned to the Redskins along with Joe Gibbs, he worked closely with Dockery.
The results are starting to show, particularly in pass protection. Entering the Week 9 game at Detroit, the Redskins had yielded 17 sacks in seven games.
In run-blocking, Dockery had helped running back Clinton Portis rush for 663 yards through seven games, fourth-best in the NFC.
That includes 171 yards on 36 carries by Portis in the Redskins' 13-10 win over the Chicago Bears on Oct. 17.
"It's exciting to watch Clinton run, to open a hole and get him going," Dockery said. "We just have to be consistent. Hopefully we can keep on going uphill."