Before the regular season started, everyone was talking up rookie quarterback Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks. After dominating every exhibition appearance, it was safe to say Wilson was headed to Canton and the Seahawks were Super Bowl-bound. Okay, not really, but that's what it felt like after the public got a taste of Russell-Mania.
Even I was googly-eyed after watching the rookie out of Wisconsin. The offensive line looked strong, he was rarely under pressure and he made plenty of plays with his legs. However, there is a reason that the preseason doesn't count. Once the regular season starts, no one cares what happened last week or even the week before.
Darnell Dockett and the rest of Arizona's defense didn't seem to care, as they had their way with Seattle's offensive line. By game's end on Sunday, Dockett had registered three quarterback hits and seven hurries. Not to mention he absolutely destroyed J.R. Sweezy in the run game.
I've seen Dockett put together some fine performances in the past. One in particular that stands out is his game against the New York Giants last season. But I feel this was his most complete and dominant game as a pro. Even if Sweezy was making his first career start, that's beside the point because he did everything you could ask of a 3-4 defensive end.
Let's take a look at how he used his strength and leverage to dominate the Seahawks' run game.
On the first play of the game, Dockett is lined up over right tackle Breno Giacomini. The Seahawks offense was in 21 personnel. Braylon Edwards and Sidney Rice were split out wide to the left, Michael Robinson and Marshawn Lynch were in the backfield and Zach Miller was on the end of the line.
The Seahawks offensive line is attempting to block downhill to the left. The key on this play for the right tackle will be to get enough leverage, so he can completely push No. 90 out of the play. But trying to do this to an NFL All-Pro player is extremely difficult in a one-on-one situation.
Watch in the clip above as Dockett has his way with Giacomini. Instead of Giacomini dictating where the play is going, Dockett pushes his way down the line of scrimmage and single-handedly stops the play in its track. There was no resistance as he worked his way down the line, not to mention he never even had to move off his path to the ball-carrier.
During this second-quarter run play, Dockett is lined up farther inside over Sweezy. Seattle is in shotgun, 11 personnel with Leon Washington as the running back. The Seahawks are trying to run a draw play between the left guard and left tackle.
Sweezy and Max Unger both double down on Dockett in an attempt to slow his roll, yet he proves to be too strong once again. Even as two players try to push him around, he uses his leverage to set the line of scrimmage and point of attack.
Just as he does in the first play, Dockett gets the flow of the play heading downhill. By heading downhill, he eventually sheds both offensive linemen and makes the tackle from the left end spot. It's hard to stop a dominant player who is consistently beating one-on-one matchups, let alone double-teams.
Dockett's ability to play a high number of snaps and keep his conditioning high is incredible, considering he plays over 85 percent of the team's defensive snaps on average. In the fourth quarter, his conditioning really stood out when taking on his original victim, right tackle Giacomini.
As you can see above, Dockett is lined up at left end in their three-man line. Seemingly, Seattle ran to the left side of the formation on 14 of their 27 designed run plays.
I know I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but the way No. 90 stands up his blocks and gets pursuit down the line to the ball-carrier is incredible. And this just wasn't on these three plays—this is basically what happened on every run play during the entire game.
I bet you're glad I didn't take the time to break down every play he dominated. That would be exhausting for both you and me. Dockett is a staple to the Arizona Cardinals defensive line—it's not hard to argue that he and Calais Campbell are the top 3-4 ends in the league. They dictate and direct traffic up front. If they can get some help from the secondary, they will easily finish the year as a top 10 defense.