Saints Nab Fallen Kings of New York
Jonathan Vilma and Jeremy Shockey have a ton in common besides both being traded to the Saints this offseason. Both were drafted out of the University of Miami. Both were drafted by teams in New York in the first round (Shockey in 2002 by the Giants, Vilma in 2004 by the Jets). Both made immediate impacts for their team, Shockey making the Pro Bowl in his first season and Vilma winning the AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Shockey made four Pro Bowl appearances in his first five seasons (2002,2003,2005,2006) and Vilma made his first appearance in 2005. Both players seemed prime for greatness. Vilma was a tackling machine at middle linebacker and Shockey brought toughness and playmaking ability at tight end. Both players had become stars.
Then things happened.
In Vilma’s case, new head coach of the Jets Eric Mangini brought in the 3-4 system in 2006. Vilma saw his production and importance to the team fall. After so much success in his first two seasons, Vilma was now in a system that didn’t maximize his talents and abilities. He recorded career-lows in a few categories. Then in 2007, Vilma suffered a season ending during a week 7 game verse the Cincinnati Bengals.
For Shockey, he had become the man in New York. Always a fan favorite for his relentless passion for the game, it seemed he could do no wrong. In a week 15 game against the Washington Redskins in 2007, Shockey broke his left fibula was to miss the remainder of the season. With Shockey now out of the lineup, the Giants soared. They went on to defeat the undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. The turn of events prompted speculation that the Giants were better without him. All his weaknesses were brought to the forefront. His fiery attitude. His injuries. His dropped passes. Everything.
That brings us to this offseason. The Saints moved quickly to acquire Vilma on the first day of free agency. The Saints traded a fourth round pick in the 2008 draft and a conditional draft pick in the 2009 draft. They also showed an immediate interest in Shockey. The Giants never seemed all that willing to trading Shockey and the Saints wouldn’t cave in on trading a first-round pick. Then Shockey showed up during a mini-camp and got into a shouting match with Giants GM Jerry Reese. It seemed as if this was the last straw. The two teams reached an agreement that would bring Jeremy to New Orleans for a second- and fifth- round selections in the 2009 draft (or a first round pick if the conditional draft pick in the Vilma trade becomes a second rounder).
When playing great in New York, you become a star. That was what both players had become. Now they find themselves at a crossroad in both careers. Both players coming back from injuries. Both players needing to repair their image. Both players needing to get back to Pro Bowl levels. Together again.