I’m not sure I will ever understand why the Cleveland Browns did what they did, but they were stupid for not hanging on to second year defensive back James Dockery. The irony is that Cleveland would end up in dire need of defensive backs during the 2012 season. The former undrafted free agent has found a nice home with the Carolina Panthers.
Playing his collegiate ball for the Oregon State Beavers, Dockery accomplished what most undrafted rookie free agents only dream of: making an NFL football team’s 53 man roster when the odds were stacked against him.
In 2011, Dockery was the Browns’ star of training camp and his play was not going unnoticed. After a strong preseason, rookie head coach at the time Pat Shurmur and his staff felt Dockery earned a spot and signed him for the season.
However, for whatever reason, the former Beaver only dressed and played in 12 games. The 25-year-old finished the season with five special teams tackles. Dockery played mostly special teams and was inactive for the final six games. Still, it seemed like the promising young corner was going to be given a shot in the 2012 campaign.
Along came training camp 2012. After dedicating the entire off-season to making himself better, including an excruciating training program in Hawaii with other NFL players, Dockery was one of the most in shape players to report to camp. All signs were pointing to a successful season with the brown and orange.
While attending training camp and evaluating players, I noticed No. 31 was quicker and was gradually becoming a ball hawk. Although, training camp stats were not made public, I counted at least four interceptions he had in either 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills. “Dock” picked off both Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden twice. The sky looked like the limit for Dockery. Unfortunately just like everything else in life, politics run deep in the NFL and Dockery was let go on the day of the final cut.
Half way through the NFL season, the Panthers came calling. Carolina signed him right before Week 8 and he would not disappoint. Call it a coincidence, but the Panthers went 6-4 after signing Dockery. The Panthers finished the season with a four game winning streak and three of those games Dockery started. The hungry youngster finished with 20 tackles and a huge pass break up (against the Oakland Raiders‘ Rod Streater on third down) in the seven games he played in.
Speaking with the very humble Dockery about his release, he told me “Obviously hurt, it was my first chance. However, they just threw more logs in my fire so I appreciated it as well.” The next opportunity was soon to come. When I asked him the differences between the two franchises, he said “Their both good organizations in my eyes. One is very historic and one is youthful in history, but both chasing the same goal.” Like I said, humble.
One thing is for certain though, the Panthers got a great steal by picking up Dockery. He finally received the chance he deserved. Now in 2013, Dockery hasn’t taken anything for granted and is ready to take his game to another level.
Ryan Ruiz – NFL Writer
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