FOXBORO -- As defensive tackles go, Arizona's Darnell Dockett may be one of the most versatile and athletic in the NFL. Now in his ninth season, the three-time Pro Bowler has made a name for himself as one of the league's most productive and durable defensive linemen.
As the Patriots have studied Dockett this week, they've noticed just how disruptive he can be in the middle of the Cardinals defensive line. In Week 1 against the Seahawks he accumulated five tackles, a half-sack, five hurries and three quarterback hits.
After putting up 390 yards of total offense against the Titans last week, Dockett's Cardinals and their 3-4 scheme present what should be a more formidable challenge.
"He's probably one of the top defensive tackles in the league," Donald Thomas said of Dockett. "He's a leader out there, I think, for their 'D'-line and he's gets those guys going. He's been playing for a long time and he's a good player. You've got to be able to match up with him and control him and not let him get going."
At 6-foot-4 and 293 pounds, Dockett isn't the traditional space-eating defensive tackle. He's big enough to help Arizona protect against the run, but he's also quick enough to get after quarterbacks and make plays in the backfield.
"It makes him more explosive I think," Thomas said of Dockett's leaner build. "He's not one of those big 330 guys. He's fast, he can move, he's strong. He has a good combination of size and speed and I think that's what makes him such an elite player."
His desire stands out on film, too. For a guy who has started in every regular season game but one since he came into the league out of Florida State in 2004, Dockett still has a rookie's motor.
"I think it's his effort," said Logan Mankins in describing Dockett's strengths. "He's athletic, no doubt everyone in the NFL is, but he's a very high-effort guy. He's always playing very hard, always hustling up the field, always trying to get to the ball. I think that's his biggest attribute."
That effort up front doesn't always show up on the stat sheet, either. Helped by Dockett's strong showing in Week 1, linebacker Paris Lenon made two sacks. Daryl Washington, another Cards 'backer, had 10 tackles.
"They have big guys that move very well," Mankins said. "They have a very athletic front. They can pass rush, they play good against the run, they do pretty much all of it. They're a pretty complete defense."