Is Jeremy Shockey the best tight end in NFL?

Paul Schwartz: It wasn't long ago that we were all going gaga over Jeremy Shockey and we may have forgotten that he actually needed to catch and run with the football before he was fitted with the crown of greatness. We all were guilty of over-hype. Then quite suddenly it became fashionable to rip into Shockey for everything from his hair (too long) to his mouth (too racy) to his decision to work out in Miami (too selfish) to his occasional dropped passes (too sloppy).

Rarely with Shockey is there any gray area. Well, far be it for me to offer any calm perspective. After seeing what Shockey has and hasn't done in the first half of this season, I believe he's the best tight end in football. Now I know, Kenny, you're not accustomed to such superlatives (that means the highest of praise, not Superman's relatives) from me but I can't help it. The guy can do it all. He even blocks. His physical skills are second to none, he doesn't sulk when things don't go his way as frequently as before and he is an absolute matchup demon for every opponent. Defenses either shift their gameplan to contain him or pay a heavy price. Through eight games, his average per catch of 16.6 yards led all tight ends. Tony Gonzalez is a Hall of Famer but he's not what he once was. Antonio Gates of the Chargers is more prolific (that means he catches more passes, for those who attended Penn State) but that's a function of fewer receiving options in San Diego than with the Giants, where Shockey must share with Plaxico Burress. Shockey in his fourth season is nearing his immense potential. He can still become more precise in his route-running and more consistent with his hands. But he's the most potent tight end force in the game.

Ken Palmer: Wow, folks, it took until Week 10, but Paul finally got one correct. Yes, Jeremy Shockey is indeed the league's best tight end as we speak. He can catch, run, block, but most of all – and an obvious Schwartz omission – he's the leader of this offense. No, he's not all about rah-rah in the locker room, but Shockey's energy and emotion is what the rest of the offensive players feed off. Sure, the crazy celebrations have been basically put away, but his excitement over big plays and success gets everyone else excited as well. As Shockey said after the win in San Fran, if only the rest of the offense was more like him, the Giants offense would have even more of a swagger. Like Paul said, we all knew Shockey had this in him; it was just a matter of him staying healthy, which fortunately he has. Now for those who think Shockey's improved play is a direct result of the addition of Plaxico Burress to the offensive attack: you've got it all wrong. Burress' success is primarily because Shockey's presence in the middle forces opposing defenses to focus on number 80 with at least two defenders on most plays.

PS: Of course narrow-minded Kenny is now ready to give all the offensive credit to Shockey – and Shockey alone. I didn't induct Shockey into Canton just yet; he hasn't done it all on his own. Let's see if I can convey this point so your limited mind can comprehend (that means understand) what I'm getting at. It's time to give John Hufnagel some credit for the way the Giants are scoring and moving the ball. Why is it that other offensive coordinators instantly get labeled "hot coaching candidates'' as soon as one of their players scores a touchdown? Sure, this is Tom Coughlin's offense but it's Hufnagel calling the plays. It was Hufnagel who rolled the dice on 4th-and-1 in San Francisco and the result was a 32-yard TD pass from Eli Manning to Shockey. This is not to say that Hufnagel should be trumpeted for head coaching vacancies. Some guys are best suited where they are. Hufnagel, unlike so many assistants, doesn't crave attention or try to make himself look good in order to garner a promotion. To the contrary, he prefers to do his work behind the scenes. Obviously, he's doing his job well.

KP: Now this is getting a little scary. Halloween tricks and treats a few weeks late? Paul is now 2-for-2 in this installment of double coverage. I'm even impressed that he knew the name of New York's offensive coordinator. Perfectly put, my friend. Hufnagel has certainly been getting the job done, and done very well. It wasn't long ago – late last year to be exact – that a lot of the offensive players, including our boy Shockey – were moaning and groaning over the lack of creativity and diversity in the offensive play calling. No longer. It just goes to show you how hard it is to coach when you have no talent and how easy it is when the opposite holds true. Hufnagel is the perfect Coughlin assistant – he'd rather undergo an extensive root canal than take credit for anything – or even answer a question using ‘I' at any point. The fact that he's calling great games comes as no surprise to me. After all, he's a former standout Nittany Lion signal-caller that obviously learned from the absolute best: Joe Paterno.

PS: Let's look ahead to what stands in the way of the Giants in the second half of the season. They're going to be tested and their hold on first place in the NFC East will surely be challenged. What's the toughest game for them? It's got to be at Philadelphia on Dec. 11. The Giants have lost four straight there and while the Eagles clearly aren't the powerhouse they've been, they're tough to beat and won't go down without a fight. Playing at Seattle, at Washington and at Oakland are all challenges, but the Eagles are a division opponent and they won't go out and lose to the Giants. The Giants will have to go in and beat them and it won't be easy.

KP: There goes 3-for-3 up in flames. I knew you couldn't ace the whole test, buddy. This game coming up in Seattle after Thanksgiving is the key to whether or not the Giants can make real hay the rest of this season. They're hopeful of heading to Seattle with an 8-2 mark and all sorts of dreams and aspirations of a first-round playoff bye. While not nearly enough credit is given to the Hawks – they won six of their first eight as well – they're a solid, balanced team that's tough at home. This is the exact type of game even good Giants teams would lose in the past. For New York to really be taken seriously – and to start to take themselves seriously as well – they need to win in what will serve to be their toughest remaining game this season. This isn't to say they won't stub their toe in Philly, DC or against the Cowboys because they likely will. Just to say that Paul's way off the mark in circling Dec. 11 against the TO-less Birds as New York's toughest remaining contest. All in all, though, I'm still pretty proud of my Double Coverage patsy pal. Like Meat Loaf sang, ‘two out of three ain't bad.'

The Giants Beat Top Stories