Most young players drafted in the mid- to late-rounds earn their roster spots by proving themselves on special teams. Meanwhile, they learn from the veterans how to play their actual positions and are slowly worked onto the field in a reserve role before eventually getting the opportunity to start.
It seems strange that the opportunity hasn’t exactly come for San Diego Chargers safety Darrell Stuckey. The former fourth-round pick is heading into his fourth year in the league and has become a great special teams player for the Bolts.
If there were ever a great opportunity for Stuckey to seize a starting spot, it’s right now. With Atari Bigby gone and Brandon Taylor still recovering from a late-season torn ACL, the Chargers were pretty desperate to find someone to play strong safety. But instead of giving Stuckey a legitimate shot to win the position, the Bolts decided to shift cornerback Marcus Gilchrist to strong safety.
The Bolts could be hesitant about an increased role for Stuckey on defense if it means taking him off special teams. In 2010, the Chargers were historically bad on special teams, allowing four blocked punts and four return touchdowns. Part of the reason was that solid special teamers like Mike Tolbert and Jacob Hester were promoted to more full-time roles and therefore weren’t utilized as often on special teams.
The Chargers seemingly kept former wide receiver and Pro Bowl special teamer Kassim Osgood off the field on offense to make him focus on special teams, and could do the same to Stuckey. Whether that’s fair or not, San Diego is trying to keep all their units, special teams included, at their best.
Still, there’s plenty of time for Stuckey to make his case in training camp and preseason and prove that he can be even more valuable to the team as a contributor on defense. He should be given some opportunities to earn the role and will need to make the most of those opportunities if he wishes to be more than a special-teamer for the Bolts.