Experts see Shockey as ‘huge' addition

Reaction was swift after the New Orleans Saints acquired tight end Jeremy Shockey on Monday. Experts hailed it as a big move forward for the Saints offense. Why? Find out inside as experts like Scout.com's Adam Caplan weigh in on the deal's impact in this exclusive article.

The New Orleans Saints were content with their offense for most of the offseason — save for one position.

Tight end.

The Saints sought to wrestle Jeremy Shockey from the New York Giants twice — before the draft and during the second round. But nothing happened.

But on Monday the Giants accepted the same deal the Saints offered in April — second-round and fifth-round draft picks — to move Shockey.

Most NFL experts agreed that New York's loss was definitely New Orleans' gain.

"The addition of Shockey is huge for a few reasons," Scout.com's senior NFL reporter Adam Caplan said.

Caplan does elaborate, but let's examine Shockey's record first.

Shockey leaves the Giants as their fifth-leading all-time receiver, with 371 receptions, 4,228 yards and 27 touchdowns. What's important to note is Shockey's consistency since he arrived in the Big Apple as a first-round pick in 2002. He's caught at least 57 passes in every season but one — 2003, when he caught 48 in nine games before an injury ended his season.

Compare that to the production of the Saints' current tight ends, Eric Johnson and Billy Miller. It's not even close. Miller has never caught more than 8 passes in a season. Johnson caught 82 passes in 2004, but has never caught more than the 48 he caught last season for the Saints in any of his other six seasons. In fact, Johnson has missed two full seasons.

That's just one reason why the Saints pursued Shockey in April and again this month.

"Despite his injury history, he's easily one of the most talented players at his position in the NFL," Caplan said. "The team badly needed an upgrade over Eric Johnson and they'll get one with Shockey."

The injury history is important to note because Shockey does get banged up. He missed the final two games of last season with a broken leg. He missed seven games in his second season — 2003 ¬— with an injury. And Shockey has never played all 16 games in a season.

He's a tough customer. Many scouts see him as an above-average blocker. But the contact he invites may cause him to miss a game now and again.

So it's likely that both Johnson and Miller will survive the final cuts this preseason. Johnson can be a solid No. 2 pass catching tight end, while Miller is an above-average blocker.

But Shockey is the total package and head coach Sean Payton knows that first-hand.

In 2002 Payton was Shockey's offensive coordinator. That's easy to forget, since Payton went to Dallas the next offseason. But under Payton Shockey enjoyed his finest season —a career-high 74 grabs for 894 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

That could be why Shockey was so jazzed to join the Saints on Monday.

"I am excited to join the Saints as they have expressed interest in me. I have had a relationship with Coach Payton and I appreciate what he has done as a head coach," said Shockey. "The Saints have a lot of weapons starting with Drew Brees and I look forward to joining my teammates at training camp. This will be a fun year."

The spin after the deal was that Brees would benefit most from the trade, and that's a logical assumption. Brees now has a legitimate middle-of-the-field target that can catch tough passes, move the chains and still stretch opposing defenses. Brees didn't have that kind of a safety valve last year as he tried to throw the Saints back into contention. Ask Tony Romo how important Jason Witten is to him in Dallas, and you get an idea of how important Shockey can become to Brees.

But wide receivers like Marques Colston and Devery Henderson will benefit, too.

Shockey becomes the team's No. 2 receiver. He's been more consistently productive in his career than any other receiver on the roster besides Colston. By the end of the season, provided he remains healthy, Shockey will be behind only Colston in receptions.

But as he's touching the football, he'll help his receivers in other ways. Payton will use Shockey over the middle quite a bit. Because of his ability to stretch defenses as well, safeties will have to pinch down in coverage and respect Shockey's ability to get to their level. That should leave outside receivers like Colston and Henderson in more single coverage. Without safety help, the Saints stand a better chance of burning cornerbacks deep.

Shockey fills that safety valve void because most of the Saints' receivers are perceived as downfield threats. With Miller and Johnson, the safeties could leave linebackers to cover those tight ends. Not so with Shockey, who will demand more attention.

The Saints stood pat on offense for a reason. They felt they didn't need to shake up what was one of the best offenses in the NFL the last two years. Shockey will certainly bring an attitude to the locker room, but he also brings production the likes of which the Saints have not seen out of a tight end. He elevates the offense to a higher echelon. His presence on the field should help his teammates and he likes Payton calling the plays. A season in which Shockey catches 60 passes for 700 yards and a half-dozen touchdowns isn't out of the question.


Matthew Postins is the publishers of saintsinsider.com


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