Tight end Luke Stocker hoping for bigger things in Bucs' offense
Lost in the fallout from the end of the Bucs’ season was a notable performance in the season finale from tight end Luke Stocker.
The numbers weren’t huge – he had three catches for 50 yards – although he had season highs in the game. But more than that, Stocker, he hopes, demonstrated that he can be a multi-dimensional tight end who the coaching staff can rely on. He even showed some athleticism, leaping a defender in the open field for additional yardage. With Dallas Clark very much undecided about his future, and with the Bucs’ lack of depth at tight end, Stocker recognizes a potential opportunity.
But has he earned it?
“I hope (the performance) generates a little something for the future,” said Stocker, who had a key 26-yard gain among his catches. “It felt good to catch some balls and move the chains.
“I really hope the organization can hopefully see me as the guy. Throughout the year, even the reps I got in practice – though I don’t get that many in the game – those reps I get, I wanted to show them enough to give me a shot.”
The Bucs had high hopes for Stocker, which is why they traded up to the top of the fourth round in 2011 to draft. Injuries have frequently set him back, as did a handful of drops this season.
But Stocker, who had 16 catches for 165 yards this season, said he’s seen development in his game, both as a blocker (his strength) and as a receiver.
“My fundamentals are like day and night now,” Stocker said. “I’m a big enough guy that I can kind of get away sometimes with not taking the right steps and not (getting) low enough, but when I take the right steps and have my pad level where it needs to be, I can be a very effective blocker. Hopefully I can build on that in the passing game and become more of an every-down guy and not just a first and second-down guy.”
Tight end is a position to watch this offseason. The Bucs didn't get a ton of production from the position this year, but it's hard to decipher whether that's because of Clark's and Stocker's role in the offense or if it's related to performance.
Either way, the team will address the position before next season. How much the Bucs invest in the position will be a tip off to how it feels about Stocker.