1. Bucs

Bucs think they have depth to cover loss of Seferian-Jenkins

TP_359852_ZUPP_Bucs_26 (Tampa, 12/22/2012) Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Luke Stocker (88) makes a third quarter first down reception. Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the St. Louis Rams at Raymond James Stadium. [CHRIS ZUPPA, Times]
TP_359852_ZUPP_Bucs_26 (Tampa, 12/22/2012) Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Luke Stocker (88) makes a third quarter first down reception. Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the St. Louis Rams at Raymond James Stadium. [CHRIS ZUPPA, Times]
Published Sep. 24, 2015

TAMPA — With Austin Seferian-Jenkins out a month or more with a shoulder injury, the Bucs' other tight ends must step up, as they did when he missed seven games due to injuries as a rookie last year.

"We've been in this position before. We're familiar with how our roles will be changing," TE Luke Stocker said. "It's an opportunity for our room to step up and make plays. Obviously we'd love to have Austin out there, but that's not what's in the cards this week. We're excited about the opportunity to go out and make plays and try to win the game."

Showing their commitment to the running game, the Bucs opened Sunday's win at New Orleans with all three tight ends on the field, with Stocker and Brandon Myers joining Seferian-Jenkins in the starting lineup. The team on Tuesday signed second-year pro Cameron Brate as a third healthy tight end, and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said the position has talented options.

"As you go through the season, different guys are going to be banged up, less than 100 percent at different times," Koetter said. "You count on the depth of your team. We've got different playmakers. Hey, that's the NFL: your next tight end has to be ready to play."

Stocker is perhaps the best blocker of the group but had just seven catches for 41 yards last year; Myers caught 79 passes in 2012 with the Raiders and stepped up last season, getting 17 of his 22 receptions in games Seferian-Jenkins missed.

"I think right now we know we have pretty good depth," coach Lovie Smith said. "Today we were missing a very good football player, and if he can't go this week, we'll have to make adjustments."

INJURY UPDATE: Seferian-Jenkins is one of three injured players who did not participate in Wednesday's practice, along with C Evan Smith (ankle) and S Major Wright (abdomen). Wright missed Sunday's game, while Smith was replaced by Joe Hawley after RB Doug Martin was tackled onto his ankle.

Four players were listed as "limited participation": DT Gerald McCoy (shoulder), S D.J. Swearinger (shoulder), CB Mike Jenkins (hamstring) and DE T.J. Fatinikun (shoulder). Jenkins and Fatinikun have missed the first two games with injuries but could make their season debuts at Houston.

FAMILIAR FOE: Swearinger played his first two seasons with the Texans before he was cut this summer, but there's no hostility toward his former team as Tampa Bay goes to Houston this weekend.

"I believe everything happens for a reason," Swearinger said. "There's a reason I came here and a reason they let me go. You have to make the most out of it, and that's what I'm doing."

Swearinger said he remains close with many of the current Texans, including fellow former Gamecocks like CB Johnathan Joseph and OLB Jadeveon Clowney. He said it was strange watching scouting tape of Houston this week.

"It's definitely different," Swearinger said. "I can see myself helping when people ask me, 'What is this guy like?' I can give my insight, playing with them for two years. I know a little bit about their personnel and some of the things they do."

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Bucs QB Jameis Winston, on a conference call with Houston media, said Swearinger's reputation as a hard hitter hasn't gone away in Tampa.

"He is a head buster," Winston said. "If you need a definition on that, that means he will knock you out. … I try not to leave any of the receivers out to dry when he's around."

Contact Greg Auman at gauman@tampabay.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.


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