In a new weekly series, Buccaneers.com will take a moment each Friday to link readers to some of the more interesting national stories being written about the team…This week's links include Buc-related features on Donald Penn's return to Minnesota, the new kickoff rule and even some fantasy football analysis//
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 every week during the 2011 season. Every 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, our five Word on the Streets links include a look from enemy territory on Donald Penn's upcoming battle with Jared Allen and an analysis of the impact of the new kickoff rule, with input from several Buccaneers. 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. Donald Penn Motivated by NFL "Homecoming"
Donald Penn, the Buccaneers' Pro Bowl left tackle, began his NFL career with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2006. Penn believed he should have been drafted, and he also was surprised to end up on Minnesota's practice squad that first season. When the Buccaneers came calling in October, he eagerly took the offered spot on Tampa Bay's active roster and set out to prove his original team wrong. He was a starter by early in the 2007 season and has since developed into one of the league's best players at a critical position. Obviously, there is much more on Penn's motivational plate now, five years later, but he admits to still having a chip on his shoulder when it comes to playing the Vikings. Using some guest reporting from sources on the scene, FoxSports.com takes a look at Penn's coming matchup with his old team, and in particular defensive end Jared Allen.
Excerpt: "Since entering the league in 2004, Allen has 83-1/2sacks, tops among all players during that time frame. 'He's a game changer,' Penn said. 'I've just got to try to play as well as the last time I played him.' In that matchup Nov. 16, 2008, Penn held Allen sackless in a 19-13 Tampa Bay victory. 'It was a physical battle,' said Allen, who had a half-sack in Sunday's loss to the Chargers. 'I was fresh off a busted-up shoulder, and I felt it. I'll never forget that game.'"
2. Vikings Agree with Bucs: Don't Read Too Much Into Week One
On CBSSports.com, you'll find a detailed report on Sunday's Bucs-Vikings matchup, focusing largely on the Bucs' efforts to stop Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson. Bay area readers will also find within the story a familiar sentiment expressed by the Vikings' head coach, Leslie Frazier. Like Tampa Bay, Minnesota was on the losing end of its 2011 season opener and its offense took some heat in the days that followed. While criticism of the Bucs' efforts fell largely on the running game, in Minnesota it's newly-arrived QB Donovan McNabb who is under the microscope. Frazier cautions Viking fans not to draw any lasting conclusions over a single game, especially this early in the season. That's a point Buccaneers running back Earnest Graham also made this week.
Excerpt: "In the seat that I'm sitting in, you have to have perspective," [Minnesota Head Coach Leslie] Frazier said. "And I've been around long enough. I was telling one of our executives the other day I can remember a team a few years ago that started off 6-0 and everybody was crowning this team and saying how great they were. And they didn't even make the playoffs. So you have to be careful about coming to conclusions after one week into the season. There's so much football to be played and when you consider this off-season? If there was ever a year you don't want to overreact, this would be the year."
3. Moving the Kickoff Line Is Changing the Game
The Buccaneers made former Atlanta punter Michael Koenen one of their primary targets in free agency in July, and not just because of his excellent career punting numbers. Koenen is also one of the league's best kickoff men, and Tampa Bay brass reasoned that the NFL's decision to move the kickoff line from the 30 up to the 35 would favor teams with strong-legged kickers. So far, so good. Koenen kicked off four times in the season opener, and the only one that didn't result in a touchback was the onside attempt near the end of the game. Of course, the effects of this rule change are being discussed widely around the NFL, and Buccaneers players and coaches have gotten in on the discussion. USA Today's Jarrett Bell looked at the issue at length this week and got input from Tampa Bay's Micheal Spurlock and Raheem Morris.
Excerpt: "If you take it out, it'd better be all guts and glory — and you'd better get past that 20-yard line," says Tampa Bay Buccaneers kick returner Micheal Spurlock. "If you take it out from 7 yards deep and get tackled on the 14-yard line, you're going to hear about it."
4. Earnest Graham: Fantasy Relevant Again?
Every year, the fantasy football landscape has one or two players who emerge from relative obscurity to become hot waiver-wire commodities. Bucs running back LeGarrette Blount was an excellent example just last year. Blount actually shares Tampa Bay's backfield with another player who made the same rise just a few years ago: Earnest Graham. In 2007, Graham took advantage of a Bucs backfield ravaged by injuries to prove that he was a viable starting tailback in the NFL, rushing for 898 yards and 10 touchdowns in roughly two thirds of a season. Now Graham's name is being bounced around in fantasy circles again, after he got 14 touchdowns in Tampa Bay's opener against Detroit. Here, Ryan Phillips of Bleacher Reports discusses whether or not you should consider adding Graham to your fantasy football team.
Excerpt: "Though they turned away from Blount in Week 1, the Bucs were almost exclusively operating out of their two-minute offense. Blount still has to improve in pass protection and that's why Graham saw so much action. Don't expect Blount to be excluded from the offense like that again this season."
5. Winslow a Challenge for Foes on Third Down
Our final link goes back seven days, and was thus posted just before Tampa Bay's season opener against the Lions. Though the Bucs have moved on and are now focused on the Vikings, Justin Rogers' analysis of 's effectiveness on third downs on MLive is still a relevant and interesting read. Heading into last Sunday's game, Detroit Head Coach Jim Schwartz and linebacker Justin Durant were already thinking about the need to contain Winslow on third downs. As it turned out, Winslow would catch six catches for 66 yards in the game and help the Bucs' convert on 42.9% of their third downs with two big third-down grabs during his team's frantic fourth-quarter comeback attempt.
Excerpt: "He's one of the best receiving tight ends in the National Football League," Schwartz said. "He's got the athletic skills of a wide receiver, he has great hands, he's got great run-after-the-catch skills and he's got a quarterback who trusts him and throws him the ball in crucial situations - red zone, third down, those kind of things."