Darnell Dockett had a tough time adjusting to the defensive scheme former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton applied in the desert the past few years. Horton used him basically as a space-filler rather than what Dockett is known for, an attacker. Going from quarterback hunter to block eater was quite a difficult transition for him and he even admitted recently that he “hated” the defensive scheme Horton ran because of that fact.
To the casual observer, the sharp decrease in sack and pressure totals coming from the right side of the defensive line may have been construed as Dockett acting out against his coaches or becoming lazy and not trying hard enough. However, the polar opposite is what actually went on.
Over his entire career, both collegiate at Florida State and pro, he’s been known to have a nose for the quarterback and a high output motor to always power upfield through offensive linemen and running backs to smash the QB. He has continuously impressed his coaches with his ability to shed a double team and get into the backfield. In no way could someone say that a man with his drive would lay down and become “lazy” or “not care” that he wasn’t producing the way he used to.
The scheme that Horton ran during his time coaching for the Arizona Cardinals just didn’t favor the strengths that Dockett brings to the table. Horton would use him as a space eater on almost every down. Nobody who has ever played on the defensive side of the football would enjoy just eating a block every play, knowing that you have the skill to get around it and blow up the play in the backfield.
Dockett is a true play-buster. The way new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will utilize him in the defensive scheme will get him back to the highlight reel-type of defensive end that Cardinals fans have grown to expect since he was drafted in 2004. Just the fact that Dockett has suspended his Twitter account should have opposing offenses quivering in fear, knowing that he is devoting all of his time and energy to getting back to true form.
Calais Campbell, on the other hand, hasn’t had much of a drop off in play. The old scheme Horton ran hardly worked in favor of his abnormal size and speed, but Campbell can thrive in any defensive system. He did however, have a slight drop-off in tackles and sacks this previous season. He ended up with 63 tackles, as opposed to 72 in 2011. And sacks at 6.5 rather than 8.
However, Campbell should be able to perform better with Horton out the door.
Those aren’t exactly what anybody would call major regressions, but they could show that the Horton scheme just didn’t mesh with the special kind of talent that a physical specimen like Campbell teems with.
Bowles’ system is rumored to be an even more aggressive type than Horton’s, especially on the defensive line. To a couple of hungry lineman that haven’t gotten to eat much lately, that sounds a bit enticing.
Both of these guys are major athletes and possess an abundance of knowledge on how to play the game. There isn’t a force in this world that will keep either of them from having a monster season in 2013. Don’t be surprised if they finish out the regular season with 10-plus sacks apiece.