Derrick Dockery knows that the time to develop his skills is over. Even though he has started 29 consecutive games for the Redskins, he knows he needs to go to the next level and become a consistent left guard for the offense.
"This year, I was able to really focus on getting stronger, getting my body prepared for the season," he said. "I know I'm headed in the right direction, now I just have to go out and do it."
To get a sense of how much the 6-6, 332-pound left guard has improved, it may be best to talk to his coaches and teammates.
Listen to the words of assistant head coach-offense Joe Bugel, and you get a sense much is expected of Dockery this year.
"Dock's a different man right now," Bugel said. "You have to eliminate the first two years. This year, in his third year, he's playing at a very high level. He's bought into everything and he's playing explosively. At 330 pounds, you need to knock people around."
What has Dockery improved on?
"His tenacity," Bugel said. "His footwork and overall technique. He's a very strong person right now. He was unable to lift weights last year, and this year he really re-dedicated himself. There were times last offseason when he and [left tackle] Chris Samuels worked out seven days a week."
What does Ray Brown, a 20-year NFL veteran, think of his line-mate?
Said Brown: "He's had Coach Bugel as a coach for the second year, and there should be some continuity. He's going into his junior year, and there should be some expectations. He probably should be the best offensive lineman on the team-not to put all of the pressure of potential on his shoulder, but he can be that good.
"He's not peeking over his shoulder and nobody is tapping on him, saying 'If you don't do it right, we're going to slide somebody in there to do the job for you.' He has just grown up. He came to this league as a big baby and now he's a man. That's the key."
On Sunday against the Chicago Bears, Dockery is expected to line up against nose tackle Ian Scott. Like Dockery, Scott is a third-year player expected to step up and develop into a solid pro. It should be a challenge, and possibly one of the key match-ups of Sunday's game.
-- TWO MORE DEFENSIVE PACKAGES
In the last few weeks, it appears that assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams has tinkered some more with his defense.
Williams now has 21 defensive packages to unveil this Sunday against the Bears. He previously stated that there would be 19 packages for the Redskins' first game.
"We'll have all of our packages available, and we've come up with two more, so now we have 21 packages to pick from," Williams said.
In discussing the play of middle linebacker Lemar Marshall, Williams hinted that his packages could move Marshall to outside linebacker as well.
Warrick Holdman, expected to start at weak-side linebacker, can play in the middle. And Pro Bowl outside linebacker Marcus Washington has shifted to the middle on occasion.
"We like linebackers that are versatile," he said. "We don't want a cookie-cutter middle, outside or weak-side linebacker. We want them all to be interchangeable. That allows us to play more kinds of packages because the linebackers can play all different positions."
Williams will match wits with Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner, the brother of former Redskins head coach Norv Turner.
Williams said he has reviewed film of Ron Turner's offenses from his tenure at the University of Illinois, where Turner was head coach the last eight seasons, and his previous stint as Bears offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach from 1993-96.
"We've gone back to all of the years he was a coordinator, all of the University of Illinois film and the Bears' preseason film," Williams said. "There's a book, a biography and a scouting report on every coordinator in the league. I've always tried to stay ahead of the learning curve.
"Those things that made Ron successful in Chicago the first time around, those are the same types of things he was comfortable running at Illinois. Those are the same things we've seen here in the preseason."