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 is actually two weeks. With the Bucs enjoying their bye week following the trip to London, we've had a fortnight (as they would say in the U.K.) worth of articles and videos on the team to choose from. This set includes an interesting video produced by Sky Sports in the U.K. and several looks at what it means to the Bucs to get running back LeGarrette Blount back. You'll also find some fantasy input and a rundown of the tight end strength in Tampa Bay's division. 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. NFC South bursting with strong tight ends.
As we've noted before Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com runs an NFC South-centric blog throughout the season, so he is constantly finding new angles from which to look at the division's four teams. In this short but on-target post, he points out how strong the tight end position is throughout the division, even in Carolina, where it has been something of a weakness before 2011. Yasinskas looks not only at each player's receiving numbers, but also at targets, which gives an idea of how often the division's quarterbacks like to look to their tight ends. While you're reading through Yasinskas' blog, you might want to check out this longer piece discussing Josh Freeman's thumb injury and Yasinskas' take on the different approaches to the injury report taken by the Buccaneers and the Saints. And on the subject of the Bucs' tight end, Kellen Winslow, take a look at this post on profootballweekly.com, as well, which discusses Josh Freeman's continued trust in his teammate.
Excerpt: "Tampa Bay's Kellen Winslow is No. 2 with 56 targets. He has 31 catches for 282 yards and a touchdown. Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez is No. 5 with 50 targets. Gonzalez has 35 catches for 380 yards and four touchdowns. Carolina's Greg Olsen is No. 6. He's been targeted 45 times and has 26 catches for 286 yards and three touchdowns. Olsen's numbers could be higher, but he shares time -- and targets -- with Jeremy Shockey."
2. "Gridiron Goes Global," thanks to Sky Sports' visit.
The Buccaneers' trip to London to take on the Bears drew a lot of local interest in the United Kingdom, where American football has a good foothold and is growing in popularity. However, there are many potential fans in the U.K. who are still a bit unfamiliar with the details of the sport, and that's where Sky Sports came in. The dominant sports subscription television in the U.K., Sky Sports obviously spends a lot of time covering Premier League soccer, but the pending visit by the Bucs prompted them to take a closer look at the most popular sport in the United States. A crew from Sky Sports came to Tampa during the week leading up to the Bucs' trip overseas, and fashioned a lengthy video piece aimed at U.K. fans who wanted to know more about the team and the game that was going to be on display at Wembley Stadium. It's an interesting piece because of the novice perspective of its producers, as they spend a lot of time on some of the details American football fans take for granted. Head Coach Raheem Morris and General Manager Mark Dominik help give a tutorial on football, the Bucs and team headquarters, and such players as Davin Joseph and Brian Price help out on a variety of topics including diet, how much they can lift and the special gloves that receivers wear.
Excerpt from the video's accompanying text: "The goal now for Morris - at 35 the youngest head coach in the NFL - is to mirror the success achieved by the Glazer's other head coach, Sir Alex Ferguson. 'I was fortunate enough to go over there (Manchester) and watch a match and that was a great experience for me; we actually had a nice dinner with those guys and I got a chance to meet Sir Alex Ferguson. He was exactly what I thought he would be: a class act. He talked about some of his principles, like playing fast, playing hard, playing smart, playing consistent. You've got to admire anybody who has done it as long as he as for as good as he has with that type of effort.'"
3. Plenty of fantasy interest in the Superdome Sunday.
If you're a Buccaneers fan and a fantasy football player, then you're likely thrilled by the return of Bucs running back LeGarrette Blount from injury (unless you're playing against him, in which case you may have mixed feelings). Blount is likely to be back in a lot of fantasy lineups this weekend, and he's not the only player of interest in Sunday's Bucs-Saints game, given that the two teams combined for 873 yards the last time they met. Who are the best plays from among the many intriguing skill-position players on display Sunday in the Superdome? The fantasy analysts at SI.com take a swing at that question this week, and find a lot of very good plays. In fact, they are high not only on Blount, but on Freeman, who had his best game of the season against New Orleans in Week Six. Check it out for advice on who to start and sit. And if you really don't care about fantasy football but are still interested in what it means to have Blount back for the Saints rematch, check out this post on SportingNews.com about the effectiveness of New Orleans' rush defense.
Excerpt: "The Saints are not a bad defense, but they are in the bottom half of fantasy against QBs, RBs, WRs and TEs. That about covers it. The Saints are giving up a league-worst 5.5 yards per rush and the return of Blount from injury and bye should boost an offense that will be asked to score points in the Superdome to keep up with the Saints. The usefulness of Freeman should encourage you to start the likes of the struggling Winslow and WR Mike Williams."
4. Game preview: Saints' minds on revenge.
NFL.com posts weekly video game previews for every contest on the schedule, and this week's rundown of the critical intradivision showdown between Tampa Bay and New Orleans is filled with interesting statistical markers. The narrator notes that the Saints are heading into a tough portion of their schedule, beginning with a chance to avenge their Week Six loss in Tampa. The video also notes how successful both quarterbacks – the Bucs' Josh Freeman and the Saints' Drew Brees – have been in the Superdome. Brees, for instance, is completing 75% of his passes in home games this year and the Saints are averaging 44 points per outing in the Superdome. However, as is also noted in the preview, the Bucs held New Orleans to a season-low 20 points in their 26-20 victory at Raymond James Stadium three weeks ago. While you're checking out the videos on NFL.com, also look for Kurt Warner's opinion of Brees' play this season and the 32 interceptions Brees has thrown since the start of 2010.
Excerpt: "Will Josh Freeman enjoy similar success against the Saints' 16th-ranked pass defense? At least he's going to a building where he's had success. Freeman has won both of his career starts in the Superdome, completing 73% of his passes for 526 yards. … The Saints allowed 100 yards rushing to Earnest Graham when these two teams last met, but Graham is gone for the season with an Achilles injury. Instead, the Bucs hope their offense gets a jolt from LeGarrette Blount."
5. Blount's return will help Freeman.
On CBSSports.com, you'll find quite a bit of input from The Sports XChange, which offers analysis on every team and game. Here, the XChange posits that the return of Blount to the Bucs' offense will help nobody more than Freeman, who has had an up-and-down season so far in 2011. Blount may even be more of a force than before his injury, because the loss of Earnest Graham leaves the Bucs with a hole at third-down back. Freeman thinks Blount is ready to play more extensively on third downs, which could increase his role as a receiver. If you follow the above link, take a moment while on CBSSports.com to check out their "Strategy and Personnel" look at Sunday's game, which also includes a report card of the Bucs' first seven games.
Excerpt: "I think LeGarrette is going to get his shot," Freeman said [regarding Blount playing on third downs]. "We've been talking about it from the preseason. … It's a thing that's always kind of been a monkey on LeGarrette's back. He can do it. We were out there thin the walk-through throwing it around, and when we got into the pass and the blitzes, he's out there calling the protections and knowing where he's going. It's huge. Huge to see the strides that guy has made."