Will Jeremy Shockey Re-Emerge As An Elite Tight End in 2009?

Chris DiLeoCorrespondent IMay 26, 2009

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 9: Tight end Jeremy Shockey #89 of the New Orleans Saints rushes upfield with a pass against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on November 9, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

As Jeremy Shockey enters his first full offseason with the New Orleans Saints, it is beginning to appear as if he has reached a critical juncture in his career.

Jeremy Shockey’s NFL career began when he was the selected as the fourteenth overall pick by the New York Giants in 2002.

As a rookie, Shockey lived up to high expectations as he recorded 74 receptions for 894 yards and two touchdowns.  He earned All-Rookie honors, was selected to the Pro Bowl, and was immediately considered as one of the up-and-coming elite tight ends in the league.

Success would continue for Shockey, as he was selected to the Pro Bowl in four of his first five years with the Giants.  In fact, he tallied 192 receptions for 2,180 yards and 20 touchdowns in just three seasons between 2004 and 2006.

The negative side of Shockey was his propensity for animated gestures on the playing field when he was upset at his teammates.  Most incomplete passes that were not thrown in his direction would be followed by flailing arms and plenty of screaming, often creating an embarrassing situation for quarterback Eli Manning.

It seemed apparent that the Giants’ organization was willing to tolerate Shockey’s antics and off-field distractions as long as he produced on the football field.

However, in 2007 everything changed. Shockey broke his fibula during week 15, and was forced to miss the remainder of the season.

Despite the pessimism created by Shockey’s season-ending injury, the Giants won the NFC Title that year, and then went on to shock the world by beating the previously undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

This success made the Giants realize their offense could operate very well without Shockey, and they no longer needed to tolerate his shenanigans, nor his increasing susceptibility for nagging injuries.  Ultimately, the organization grew tired of him and he was traded to the Saints in July of 2008.

Shockey was welcomed with open arms in New Orleans.  Saints fans were happy to have another weapon in their potent aerial attack.  Three games into the 2008 season, the optimism seemed well grounded, as Shockey had already accumulated 16 receptions for 151 yards.

However, prior to week four, Shockey was diagnosed with a sports hernia, and it caused him to miss the next five weeks of the season.  His absence gave back up tight end Billy Miller an opportunity for a starting role, and he performed very well.

Shockey did return to the lineup, but was continually bothered by nagging injuries for the remainder of the season.  He finished the year with a career low 483 receiving yards, and failed to reach the end zone.

As a new season quickly approaches, it seems that Shockey realizes his career is at a crossroads.  He has even fired his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, who was working on renegotiating his contract for more money.  

More importantly, for the first time in his pro career, Shockey has shown up for his team’s voluntary offseason conditioning activities. Normally he spends the entire time in Miami doing private work outs, which is something that brought plenty of negative media attention while he was playing for the Giants.

Although Shockey will continue to work out privately in Miami, he has vowed on his personal web site that he will make himself more visible to his teammates than he has in the past.  So far, things appear to have gotten off to a good start.

In a recent interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Saints quarterback Drew Brees had the following comment:  “We were kind of flying by the seat of our pants a little bit together last year just because he was hurt so much or just kind of coming back off the injury and still kind of learning what we were doing and still kind of getting used to each other. So now that we get a chance to spend some time together, it's been good”.

Shockey will be 29 years-old as the 2009 season kicks off, potentially leaving him with many productive years ahead.  He must stay healthy and play well enough to hold off Billy Miller from winning the starting the role at tight end.

Working out with his teammates during voluntary sessions and developing chemistry with Brees is a positive step.  He seems to have adapted a team-first attitude, which should pay dividends, as he looks for an opportunity to contribute in the Saints’ potent offense.

Jeremy Shockey has the skills to succeed, and is reportedly the healthiest he has been in many years.  It is now up to him to remain motivated to regain his reputation as an elite tight end in the NFL.