With Stocker out, Bucs working through issues at tight end
The Bucs knew it was going to be difficult to replace No. 2 tight end Luke Stocker, who missed Sunday’s game with a knee injury.
They went into San Francisco intending to use backups Zack Pianalto or Collin Franklin in two-tight end sets.
Well, that apparently didn’t work so well.
Offensive tackle Demar Dotson was used as a tight end in 11 instances, reporting to the referee as an eligible receiver each time. The goal wasn’t to throw passes to him, but to use him as an extra run blocker against the stout 49ers front. It seems like a reasonable idea, but the defense likely knows Dotson isn’t a threat to catch a pass although he’s lined up a tight end. That makes the Bucs a little more predictable in those situations.
The point is, the Bucs’ lack of depth at tight end is a problem. And given that Stocker missed the entire preseason with a hip injury and now is considered week to week because of the knee only serves to reinforce how serious the problem is. Kellen Winslow admits to not being the most physical blocker, which is why the Bucs spent a fourth-round pick on Stocker, who is much more effective in the running game.
But without Stocker, the Bucs are in bad shape. How poorly did the backup tight ends perform? Franklin was released by the team one day after the game, rejoining the practice squad on Tuesday.
The Bucs’ best hope is a swift recovery for Stocker. It remains to be seen whether he'll practice this afternoon, let alone play this Sunday against the Saints. If that doesn’t happen, it might be time to consider some other options.