There is no sport more popular in the United States than NFL Football, and for many sports fans in Central Florida, there is no passion greater than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of media sources for information on these fans' favorite topic, from the inside access provided here on Buccaneers.com to the information disseminated by local and national newspapers, television networks, radio stations and internet sites.
The question is no longer, is there adequate coverage out there for my favorite team? Now the question is, with everything out there being said about the Buccaneers, did I miss anything?
That's why we are bringing you the "Word on the Street" about the Buccaneers on a near-weekly basis during the 2011 season. On Friday, we'll recap some of the national coverage about your Bucs that you may have missed, and provide you with the links so you can check it out yourself.
This week's links include the first 2012 mock draft we've run across. You'll also find analysis of LeGarrette Blount's recent surge and ESPN.com's take on the possibility of a Josh Johnson start on Sunday. You may, of course, have already read about some of these topics, but this is a chance to get another perspective and find out how the Buccaneers are viewed in communities other than our own.
So, without further ado, the Word on the Streets:
1. CBSSports: Bucs offense needs to move forward on legs of LeGarrette Blount.
LeGarrette Blount drew a lot of attention last week for two reasons: He was coming off a strong outing in Green Bay and he was about to play the team that brought him into the league – and still rues letting him go – when the Bucs took on the Tennessee Titans. Blount had another nice game against his former team, rushing for 107 yards and adding a 35-yard catch that included probably the best use yet of his signature hurdle move. After the game, as the Bucs began a new week looking for ways to snap a five-game losing streak, CBSSports.com focused on the resurgence of the team's running game and the need to ride Blount as much as possible. The piece also looked at Blount's exit from Tennessee and what could have been had he stayed to pair up with Chris Johnson.
Excerpt: "More important, his physical style of running is what ignites the offense and the Bucs sideline while allowing quarterback Josh Freeman room to work his magic. 'It hypes our team up, it stirs up emotions, it turns the energy higher,' Blount said. 'There are a whole lot of things that can come out of a big run. I saw that (against the Packers). Everything started to pick up and come together for us. We've just got to make more explosive plays like that.'"
2. Early draft forecast predicts Bucs go defense in first two rounds.
Is somebody already doing a mock draft for 2012? Yes, somebody is already doing a mock draft. And why not? They're fun any time of the year, and the NFL's '12 offseason will be upon us before we can blink. If you want to start thinking about next year's draft already, head over to Bucsnation.com for some conversation starters. Actually, there's quite a few, as the author has done a full three-round mock, not just for the Bucs but for all 32 teams. Obviously, that involves predicting a final record for each team in order to figure out a draft order, and Tampa Bay hopes to finish lower in the list than the 13th overall slot it is given here. Still, this is a good opportunity to see what the team's perceived needs are heading into the offseason, and this author is obviously focused on defense. He connects the Bucs with a cornerback and a linebacker in the first two rounds before predicting a rather intriguing third-round choice: Oregon RB LeGarrette Blount.
Excerpt: "Some picks just make intuitive sense. James will likely fall this far because concerns about his size and past injuries will dampen teams' enthusiasm despite the electricity of his college production. Tampa Bay needs a speedy change-of-pace back to complement Blount's downhill power game. The reunion of these two Oregon Ducks in the warm waters of Tampa Bay could prove to be the resumption of a beautiful friendship. Thunder and lightning indeed."
3. Is this Bucs loyalist the most dedicated fan in the NFL?
Fanatical Bucs supporter Mitchell Phelps – he cheers under the moniker of "Buctastic" – gained some attention from the local ABC affiliate recently for his impressive efforts in a nationwide competition. Phelps is competing against fans from all other 31 teams in the "Vicks NyQuil Most Dedicated Fan" contest, and he's already cleared the first hurdle by being selected as the semifinalist among Buccaneer fans. He did that by apparently submitting the best game-face photo and accompanying "battle cry" earlier this season. Now he waits as visitors to the contest site on Facebook judge and vote for those 32 semifinalists. Voting lasts through December 29 and the winner will be announced on January 11. Phelps is doing well in the contest but is still trying to mobilize the vote so that he can take home the eventual prize: a VIP trip to Super Bowl XLVI. The ABC Action News piece includes a write-up about Phelps' rabid history as a Buccaneers fan, as well as an accompanying video regarding his efforts to be at as many games in person as possible.
Excerpt: "Mitchell, self-nicknamed "Buctastic," counts that Super Bowl win as the greatest day of his life. . . after his wedding day and the birth of his two boys. So, at least his priorities are in order. But, you walk into Mitchell's living room, and it's clear his wife was not the one who decorated. It is full of Bucs memorabilia, flags and jerseys. He says if it were really up to him, he'd take down the family pictures and put up all Bucs pictures. Though, there are plenty on the wall as it is."
4. ESPN delivers "the book on Josh Johnson."
ESPN's Pat Yasinskas has made a semi-regular appearance in our Word on the Streets series, and that's not surprising given that he provides daily NFC South news and analysis in his blog. This week, the post Bucs fans may find most interesting is his breakdown of Josh Johnson, who could make his first start in over two years on Sunday. Johnson's opportunity will come if Josh Freeman is unable to play due to a shoulder injury. As we said, Yasinskas provides daily news on the division, often touching on the Bucs, so there are other posts to check out while you're on ESPN.com, including this one about how the South is getting short-changed in Pro Bowl voting so far, and this one looking at how the NFC South quarterbacks have done in play-action passing situations this year.
Excerpt: " Johnson's not a classic drop-back passer, and he definitely doesn't have the same arm strength as Freeman. But Johnson's biggest strength might be his running ability. He's exceptionally fast. Before he was drafted by the Bucs in the fifth round in 2008, Johnson's 4.44-second 40-yard dash was the best time of any quarterback at the scouting combine. The Bucs have used Johnson, 25, in the Wildcat formation at times this year and he's run five times for 17 yards. He also has attempted seven passes this season, completing two for 14 yards."
5. Da'Quan Bowers welcomes young stars into All-America Game fraternity.
Though we go back to ESPN.com for another link, this one's a bit off the beaten path, topic-wise. In this piece, Corey Long of the site's "Recruiting Nation" wing talks to Buccaneers rookie defensive end Da'Quan Bowers about his high school days and his chance to star in the first Under Armour All-America Game. An 80-stop tour is underway to select the prep standouts who will play in the prestigious all-star game, and this week it came to the Bay area. Bowers visited the event in order to present jerseys to three local players who have been chosen for the game, and he reminisced about his own efforts in the very first edition of the series. Bowers was chosen as the game's MVP.
Excerpt: "'I got to play with guys like Julio Jones, a first-round draft pick,' Bowers said. 'I was the guy chasing him around in practice. I was a little skinnier back then.' Bowers told the players to savor the moment and enjoy the competition. 'It's the best of the best on that field all week and you're going to build lifetime friendships,' Bowers said. 'But also be ready to compete and represent yourself, your community and your family.'"