TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 25: Running back LeGarrette Blount #27 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers runs with the ball as teammate Davin Joseph #75 blocks against the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium on September 25, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Finding a candidate for the Game Ball of the Season (so far) was tough. There were many candidates, but none who stood out from game to game without missing too much time.
Gerald McCoy had a very strong start, but missed the last two games. Tanard Jackson has two interceptions - but has played only in parts of two games. Ronde Barber has had some flashy moments, but he's also had some weaker moments, especially in run defense. Adrian Clayborn has been good - but he hasn't been good enough to earn this game ball. Legarrette Blount has only gotten the chance to really show his skills in three games so far. None of the receivers have really stood out, except maybe Preston Parker.
So who does that leave? The offensive line.
Specifically, Davin Joseph. Donald Penn has gotten a lot of love this week as it seems the Bucs are pushing him for a Pro Bowl berth this year. And that's deserved: Penn has gone up against some very good opposition and has handled himself well. But so has Davin Joseph, and I don't think he gets talked about enough.
Joseph was given a massive contract this season, and there was a lot of skepticism about the value the Bucs got out of it. But so far the massive guard has proven to be worth every penny. Joseph has been an anchor for the seventh best rushing offense in the league, while also playing a key role on an offensive line that has given up just ten sacks this year - second best in the NFL. His most impressive performance came all the way back in week one, when he minimzed Ndamukong Suh's impact on the game.
In fact, the offensive line's performance has largely gone unnoticed this year. While last year the line was a problem, it has performed very well so far this season - with the exception of the second half against the Chicago Bears, when the Bucs were playing their third-string center and third-string left guard because of injuries. Moving Jeremy Zuttah to left guard after week one turned out to be a move that pulled the unit together, and it has given Josh Freeman plenty of time in the pocket as well as opened up good holes for both Legarrette Blount and Earnest Graham.
That's not to say that the line as a whole is a top-notch unit, it surely isn't. But while it was a clear weakness last year, it is performing like a top-ten line this season. Davin Joseph and Donald Penn are the best players on that line, and the most important. For some reason, though, Davin Joseph isn't really being talked about - which is why he gets my Game Ball of the Season (so far).