TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — There has been one constant during a nine-game losing streak that’s undermined Tampa Bay’s season — the consistent play of Buccaneers guard Davin Joseph, the team’s lone Pro Bowl selection.
The anchor of an offensive line that’s considered the strength of the NFL’s youngest team, Joseph is headed to the annual All-Star game in Hawaii for the second time in four years.
Despite falling apart following a 4-2 start, the Bucs (4-11) have allowed the ninth-fewest sacks in the league. They also are averaging 4.3 yards per rushing attempt, which ranks 13th heading into Sunday’s season finale at Atlanta.
The 2006 first-round draft pick signed a seven-year, $52.5 million contract in July and responded with perhaps the best season of his career.
“It’s a talented league. It just shows how much work we’ve put in up front, challenging each other on a day-to-day basis, always looking to get better,” Joseph said Wednesday. “It’s a reflection of how hard the offensive line has been working this year. I’m proud to be the one chosen, but I really couldn’t do it without my guys.”
Joseph, who made his first Pro Bowl appearance in 2009, has started 82 of 83 regular-season games he’s played since entering the league following a standout college career at Oklahoma. Teammates say his hard-nosed, never-quit-on-a-play approach is not always appreciated by opposing defenders wary of playing against 6-foor-3, 313-pound guard.
“Davin has been a major bright spot — the effort that guy gives, his intensity,” quarterback Josh Freeman said. “I hear guys all the time talk about … ‘that No. 75, watch out for him, tell him to cut out the cheap shots,’ which are not cheap shots, they’re hustle plays.”
Joseph said he was a little surprised at being picked for the NFC team when the selections were announced Tuesday, mostly because the Bucs have struggled after going 10-6 and narrowly missing the playoffs a year ago.
Freeman has had a down year after throwing for 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions in 2010. And, the Bucs don’t have a 1,000-yard rusher either, which is another measure of the effectiveness of offensive lineman.
“I thought that we were playing well up front. But, of course, wins and everything else goes into account,” Joseph said. “It’s good to get some sort of positive out of out a season where it seems like there’s a lot of negative.”
Still, the sixth-year pro said he’d gladly exchange the personal accomplishment for more team success. The Bucs have made the playoffs only once in his career.
“I’d give it all back for some wins. If you give me 10 wins, I’d trade it all in,” he said.
Coach Raheem Morris, whose job could be in jeopardy after Sunday’s finale, said Joseph’s success is validation of the commitment the Bucs have made to building and growing with a young team built primarily through the draft.
“There’s a bright spot in everything. … Drafting guys and re-signing them is what you want to be about,” Morris said. “That’s a great example of what it’s like and what you want to happen for our organization.”
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.