Super Bowl XLIV Preview: If healthy, Shockey could play key role for Saints

In safeties Antonie Bethea and Melvin Bullitt, the Colts have two players in their defensive backfield that are steady, underrated and are strong against the run.

But the takeaway from the above sentence is “strong against the run.” That doesn’t mean that Bethea and Bullitt are key factors in pass coverage and in fact, they’re not. They’re adequate against the pass at best, which is why some teams have had success attacking the seams of the Colts’ defense with their tight ends.

The Saints have a playmaker at tight end in Jeremy Shockey, a player that, when healthy, is a mismatch in coverage because of his size, speed and pass-catching ability. He would definitely be a mismatch in coverage against Bethea and Bullitt, especially considering that the two safeties also have to defend the run and the rest of the weapons that New Orleans has in its arsenal.

But the problem is that Shockey can never stay healthy and at least for the moment, he isn’t healthy now. Over the past month, he’s battled toe and knee injuries and hasn’t been 100%. In fact, head coach Sean Payton said that Shockey was on a limited snap count in last Sunday’s NFC Championship Game and that’s why the tight end caught just one pass for nine yards.

If Shockey can get healthy over the next two weeks, he could be the kind of X-factor that the Saints will need to beat the Colts. David Thomas is a fine replacement at tight end of Shockey is limited again, but he’s not the type of game-changer that Shockey is when he’s playing at full strength. If he’s at 100%, Drew Brees might have success attacking the middle of Indy’s defense with Shockey being the main weapon in the Saints’ passing game.

But if he resembles the one-legged man again like he did last week, then the Colts will catch a break and will likely turn their attention to stopping Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem and the rest of New Orleans’ outside pass threats.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

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