By Mary Kay Cabot
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Tonight’s preseason finale in Chicago is the stuff of which dreams are made.
It’s a night when an undrafted rookie such as cornerback James Dockery can solidify a roster spot, or running back Quinn Porter can make the Browns stop looking outside the organization for another back.
“I hope to score,” said Porter, who was signed to the practice squad in November. “I hope to make plays to show this organization I’m the right man for the job if not on offense, then on special teams.”
While the starters will spend most of the night on the bench in Soldier Field, the bubble guys will try to stave off the pink slips coming Saturday by 4 p.m., when rosters must be trimmed to the final 53.
One prospect who needn’t sweat out the final cuts is Dockery, who’s come on strong since the first day of camp. Dockery, a 6-foot-1 cornerback from Oregon State, is playing on just about every kicking team, which is a strong indication he’ll stick around. The other was the ringing endorsement he received Tuesday from general manager Tom Heckert.
“He’s proved he can play in this league,” said Heckert.
But Dockery, one of the most upbeat players on the team, isn’t taking anything for granted.
“I don’t think [I’ve done enough to make the 53],” he said. “I’ve got to keep making plays. If that’s enough to get me back to that team meeting on Saturday, I’ll be very grateful.”
Through the first three games, Dockery has made six solo tackles and broken up two passes. He’s averaged 23.3 yards on six kickoff returns and 6.8 yards on four punt returns. His only regret was a muffed punt in Philadelphia that the Eagles converted into a touchdown.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever fumbled in my whole life, so that kind of stung,” he said. “My mom was there and she was shocked, too. But you’ve got to have a short memory. It was an unfortunate event and ball security is No. 1.”
Tonight Dockery hopes to show the ball-hawking ability he’s shown in practice and at Oregon State, where he had four interceptions as a senior. At Palm Desert High in California, he set his school’s career record with 17 picks.
“I hope to challenge for every ball, make every open-field tackle to my side and make a big play that can change the game,” said Dockery. “In the return [game], I feel like I’ve been close to taking one past the 40 or 50 and that’s my goal this week.”
Porter, whose main competition is Armond Smith, knows the toe injury suffered by third-down back Brandon Jackson’s breathed new life into his chances. Jackson, who signed a two-year deal worth $4.5 million, is in a cast and possibly headed for injured reserve.
“They’re looking for a third running back,” he said. “I feel like I complete that task. It’s going to be a fight between who makes the most errors and who scores the most touchdowns.”
Smith has averaged 7.3 yards on his 20 carries — including an 81-yard touchdown blast — but he’s fumbled three times and lost two.