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, USA Today amends its preseason power ranking of the league's quarterbacks, moving Josh Freeman well up the list. You'll also find links to breakdowns of Sunday's Bucs-49ers matchup of first-place teams, including one from enemy territory, and praise from SI's Peter King for LeGarrette Blount. 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. Adrian Clayborn is rising up the rookie ranks.
Von Miller (four sacks) and Cam Newton (1,386 passing yards) are racking up the eye-catching stats and thus the early poll spots in the Rookie of the Year race. However, Buccaneers' rookie defensive end Adrian Clayborn is drawing plenty of attention himself; a fourth-quarter sack on Monday Night Football certainly helped. In fact, Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc., writing for ESPN.com, decided to re-rank the top 10 picks of the 2011 NFL Draft this week, and Clayborn makes a big jump up from where the Bucs originally got him at pick #20. Williamson doesn't match players up with specific teams but simply lists the 10 best rookies so far, and he has Miller and Newton switching spots from the original draft at #1 and #2. Clayborn comes in at #9, and he has been so impressive in the writer's opinion that he actually leads off the piece with a deeper look at the Buccaneer rookie. Also, Williamson includes fellow Buccaneer rookie linebacker Mason Foster in a group of eight "notables" at the bottom of the list. Given that second-round defensive end Da'Quan Bowers and fourth-round tight end Luke Stocker have also performed quite well in the Bucs' estimation, and it's beginning to look like Mark Dominik and Raheem Morris nailed their third draft in a row. (Much of Williamson's other content on ESPN.com is behind the "Insider" subscription wall, but while you're checking out the NFL section on that site you might also want to see Pat Yasinskas' column on the first-round quarterbacks of the 2009 draft, which includes scouts' opinions on how Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman should be ranked.)
Excerpt: "And the Bucs are deep on the line. That depth allows them to bring young players such as Clayborn along slowly. It also creates a lot of competition for playing time while permitting Tampa Bay to stay fresher on the line of scrimmage than its opponents. The situation is working out quite well for Clayborn."
2. USA Today: Josh Freeman is a top-10 quarterback in the NFL this year.
While we're on the subjects of rankings and quarterbacks, we should also check in with Nate Davis of USA Today, as he has fashioned a quarterly "Quarterback Power Ranking." Few will be surprised to find Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees at the top, but it's not as easy to put them in 1-2-3 order as you might expect. What's even more interesting for Buccaneer fans is where Davis has Josh Freeman ranked. Hint: It's pretty high, ahead of such notables as Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Philip Rivers, Michael Vick and Matt Ryan (though it's behind Matt Hasselbeck, which is another surprise). Davis applies "Q Rating" in his analysis but in the case of Freeman is more impressed with the young quarterback's mounting victories and his fourth-quarter touch. Davis also helpfully leads to his last quarterback ranking, which was published in August, so we can see how players have risen or fallen over the first quarter of the season. Freeman started out at #13, but Davis noted even then that the young Buc passer was "primed to vault up the rankings." In moving from 13 to 7, Freeman has indeed vaulted over Vick, Rivers, Ryan, Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. (While you're at it, here's another quick read from Davis on the Bucs' emerging defense.)
Excerpt: "Freeman has also won 15 of his past 23 starts -- many with thrilling fourth-quarter heroics -- and quietly has the Bucs perched atop the NFC South with Brees and the Saints. Expect more Monday night appearances in the near future after the country got to see his talent and iron will on display this week."
3. Storylines abound in matchup of "quiet" 3-1 teams.
The Buccaneers and 49ers will play the only game this weekend between two teams with at least three wins each. It's also the only game on the Week Five schedule that pits a pair of teams that each have at least a share of first place in their respective divisions. They like the matchup on CBSSports.com but contend that the Bucs and 49ers are probably the "quietest" 3-1 teams in the league. That sounds like a bit of a backhanded compliment (or maybe not a compliment at all), but the analysis that follows does touch on some of the game's most interesting storylines. Tops on that list is the contention that both teams prefer to run the ball, and that they do it in similar ways with similar results. While you're on CBSSports.com, you can also do a little more scouting of the Bucs' next opponent with this piece on San Francisco's strong work in the turnover department so far.
Excerpt: "With the NFL increasingly dominated by the pass, these teams would rather run, and both like to rely on the same run play -- the power run where the fullback leads and the backside guard pulls in front of the running back. … The difference in this game might be the way these two running backs will fare, and possibly the way they use the power run. Both teams finished off their opponents last week by salting away the game with power runs."
4. Blount, other young Bucs impress SI's Peter King.
Noted NFL analyst Peter King does a well-known and very lengthy column every Monday on SportsIllustrated.com called "Monday Morning Quarterback." He follows up with a Tuesday version the next day, and not surprisingly has some thoughts on the final game played after his first MMQB post. This week, King is clearly impressed with Bucs' running back LeGarrette Blount, but he also reserves some encouraging words for Clayborn and reserve quarterback Josh Johnson…or rather, how the Bucs utilize Johnson. There's more to interest Buc fans in the next note, as well, as King gives his thoughts on the play of 49ers defensive end Justin Smith, one of the biggest challenges for Tampa Bay's offense this weekend. While on SI.com, you might as well check out King's picks for this weekend's games, in which he predicts whether the Bucs can follow up on their big win in San Fran last year. And King even helps us in our linking endeavor here by pointing to another article about Blount by NFL.com's Jeff Darlington. You'll like that one because it includes an embedded video of the back's game-winning 35-yard TD run against the Colts on Monday night.
Excerpt: "Big moment in the game: 16 minutes to play, Colts up 17-10, Bucs with a fourth-and-one at the Indy 24. Morris eschews the field goal. Sends backup quarterback Josh Johnson in the game. Johnson slithers/sprints for eight. First down. Three plays later, Josh Freeman throws the tying touchdown pass. That's a smart way to use your roster. I wonder if the Broncos' staff was watching right about then."
5. Enemy Lines: A look at the key matchups.
As we noted in last week's Word on the Street, it's always instructive to see how the fans and media of the opposing team view the upcoming game. This week we do the same thing by checking in with "Niners Nation" on SBNation.com. Jesse Reed breaks the game down into what he believes are the three key matchups – the 49ers' offensive line vs. the Bucs' young D-Line; Blount vs. the Niners' front seven; and Freeman vs. San Fran's secondary. Reed believes Tampa Bay will stay committed to the run throughout the game, especially with some injuries thinning the 49ers' starting line, but in the end expects the 49ers to continue their streak of 26 straight games without allowing an individual 100-yard rushing effort.
Excerpt: "I expect this game to be another nail-biter for a while. I am hopeful that the 49ers can run the ball effectively against the Bucs. If they do, then they can continue to build on the success that we started in Philadelphia. I am not too concerned about the defense, even though we lost a couple of key players in Sopoaga and Brock. The next guys in line will play their role and the 49ers will come away with another impressive victory in this exciting turn around season."