FLOWERY BRANCH – If we include this upcoming NFL season, D.J. Shockley will have been a starting quarterback in exactly one of his nine years of playing football since leaving high school. So this whole waiting his turn thing – kind of old hat.
Funny. It doesn’t seem to be affecting his confidence.
His expectations: “It’s always going to be the same as long as I’m here: I want to compete for the No. 1 job.”
His belief in his ability that he’s an NFL quarterback: “Oh, no doubt. There’s no doubt at all. I have all the confidence in the world that I can start in this league and play for many years.”
His resolve: “You can’t have the mind frame like, ‘I’m gonna be backing up,’ because you never know what can happen. You have to be ready for when your time comes. If you go in thinking, ‘Maybe, maybe not,’ you’re not going to be successful.”
It’s season four of Shockley’s NFL career. His confidence aside, we’re still waiting for some clarity. Since his long-awaited starting season at Georgia, which resulted in an SEC title and a Sugar Bowl, Shockley has had three head coaches and two general managers with the Falcons. I suppose it’s a good sign that they’ve decided to keep him. But you have to wonder about the shelf life, even for a local hero. As I mentioned in a blog a week ago, the term fourth-year, third string quarterback isn’t heard very often in the NFL. It’s logical to assume that this is the pre-season there needs to be some separation from the pack.
The exhibition opener at Detroit played to mixed reviews, including his own (3-for-8 for 31 yards). But considering Shockley’s physical skills, his maturity and the leadership qualities he exuded in Athens, this backup battle shouldn’t even be a contest: Shockley is better than Chris Redman, better than John Parker Wilson.
But there’s just not much of an NFL resume. He was the designated third QB in 2006 and 2008, and spent 2007 on injured reserve. Tangible evidence of his potential is minimal. Coach Mike Smith needs to see something in a game. “He’s going to get an opportunity again this week,” Smith said.
When asked if inexperience is working against Shockley in roster decisions, Smith said: “I don’t think so. What has to happen though is that we have to feel comfortable as a staff. That’s part of this preseason. We have to make a decision on who we feel is going to best help us win games.”
Smith and Thomas Dimitroff may want to take a straw poll on that in Athens. The respect Shockley earned while sitting behind David Greene was exceeded only by the respect he earned in his fifth-year/senior season. The raw numbers: 21 touchdowns, five interceptions, an SEC championship and a 10-3 season.
The Falcons drafted him in the seventh round in 2006. But since then, he has sat behind Michael Vick, Matt Schaub, Joey Harrington, Byron Leftwich, Ryan and Redman. He feels he has improved every season. He says he has a feel for the speed of the pro game and what coaches want.
What he doesn’t have yet is an official NFL snap. But it hasn’t eroded his patience or confidence.
“What I went through in Athens helped me in terms of how to handle things, mentally and physically,” he said. “The biggest thing is patience. You can’t worry about things you can’t control. That’s just something I’ve learned over the years.”
Several years, actually.