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October 11, 2012 @ 11:18 pm
Current rating: 4.50 Stars/2 Votes

Bucs' Success Hinges On An Improved Freeman

Written by Mark
Mark Cook


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The Buccaneers are 1-3 heading into Sunday's game against the Chiefs. While it can be debated where the blame should be placed, Pewter Report's Mark Cook says the record reflects the performance of Bucs QB Josh Freeman. This week, Freeman and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan spoke about the first four games and where he may be headed.
Through four games the Tampa Bay Buccaneers currently sit in second place in the NFC South with a 1-3 record. Where they end up after 16 games will be based on several factors, but maybe none will have more of an impact on Tampa Bay’s final record than how quarterback Josh Freeman performs in the final 12 games.

So far, 2012 has been an up and down season for Freeman who has completed 65-of-119 passes for 790 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions. The former K-State star's quarterback rating is a very average 75.3, tying him with Seahawks' rookie Russell Wilson and ranking him one spot below rookie Andrew Luck.

On Thursday Freeman stood at the podium inside the media center at One Buccaneer Place answering questions from the local media including two from PewterReport.com about what he did during the bye-week to improve his game.

“We went back and looked at every single play,” Freeman said. “Every single cut up, from whether it was by protection or by coverage. Just did a pretty thorough self-evaluation, and some stuff was good some stuff was bad. You got to get more of the good and eliminate the bad. It is pretty black and white.”

PewterReport.com followed that answer up by asking Freeman what he saw specifically that he saw that needed improvement the most.

“It is just really a couple times that… it wasn’t really repeat things,” Freeman said. “It wasn’t like, ‘oh man I just can’t do this can’t do this, can’t do this.’ Just kind of like maybe the situation pops up or something pops up that doesn’t work out as well and there is a different way you could have gone about it, or you could have gone about it the same way, in a different way.

"It is kind of – I don’t know. It is just continually growing [and] learning from these experiences and throwing them in the memory bank and trying to get better.”

While Freeman’s responses to the questions didn’t answer everything readers and fans wanted to know, it did show Freeman is putting in the work, something that some fans have questioned.

Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan is seeing Freeman’s improvement, as recently as Wednesday in practice.

“I think we are headed in the right direction,” Sullivan said. “Something happened out at practice today with Josh (Freeman). As I have said before – and I will say again – his work ethic and his willingness to learn... he is putting so much time and effort into this and couldn’t be more pleased. As things are starting to come together, we had something come up today and as I was getting ready to make a correction on him he [says] ‘I got it’ and I love it. That’s what—he is developing that level of confidence and that’s what I want. I want him to say ‘I got it’ and he is getting to that point.

“You talk about the time that it takes I think in just as much interaction as we have had while there is no substitute for seasons and years and years and years, I think his personality is one that is so receptive to coaching and he wants to do so well. He is easy to communicate with. I think we are heading in the right direction. It was a little flash of that today and he had a heck of a day today. I am excited about him on Sunday.”

Freeman went on to talk about one aspect of his game that has improved this season over last – the deep ball.

“Honestly, I have always felt like that’s been a strength of mine,” Freeman said. “All the way through college and then you get in the league and I’ve hit deep balls over the years. You talk about some of those deep bombs to Rejus (Benn) or Mike (Williams).

“I remember my rookie year, we didn’t really– they weren’t really calling a whole lot of shots. We called a few, we hit a few, Antonio Bryant was banged up and we had Michael Clayton, but it was more about working underneath zones rather than trying to stretch the defense.

“I definitely feel like the deep ball is something that, you get back and assess the coverage. It’s something that, when it’s there, I feel like I can make it happen, especially now with Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, the way those guys are playing and then you turn it over to the flip side and there are also speed threats in Tiquan Underwood and Arrelious (Benn). We have a lot of players that can go get it.”

Sullivan agreed that Freeman’s deep ball can be a weapon.

We have a quarterback that can throw the deep ball and we got a couple receivers that can run on the deep ball,” Sullivan said. “That may warrant us being a little inclined to take those shots.

“Those are things that as you take a look at those first four games and evaluating what we can do better and how we can find that balance, I think as long as we have that ability to make the big plays down the field and also have some consistency in the passing game—that is going to help the run game. I think it really comes down to ultimately how we are being played. If teams are going to continue to be in a situation where they are putting extra defenders inside and playing  a lot of man coverage in [then] we are going to have to do some things to soften them up to which in turn will allow us to run the ball more. It is ongoing.”

While Freeman has shown flashes of potential,  consistency has been lacking, something both Freeman and Sullivan acknowledge. Is it Freeman? Is the play-calling? A combination of both?

The next 12 weeks should answer a lot of questions with one being will the Buccaneers begin exploring options at that position with a mediocre season from their signal-caller?

Like the engineer who drives the train – the Buccaneers will go as Freeman goes. No better – no worse – the record will reflect how the captain and leader of the offense produces down the final 12-game stretch.
Last modified on Friday, 12 October 2012 13:26

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  • avatar

    Nice to read some well-thought posts about the QB who is always going to be the target of blame for the losses regardless of his actual culpability. I'm in agreement with those who are observant enough to recognize that in the losses to Washington and the Giants that young Josh did his part to secure the win only to have the defense (that seems to go blameless) falter in the end. If the defense held up the lead in those two games, no one is looking at the 73 QB rating, we're simply pointing to the W that Josh got us and buying # 5 jerseys. Yes, Freeman should play better and Mark is absolutely correct in his assessment about the lull in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. That says to me that our coaching staff needs to figure out how to prevent that from occurring. At least Josh isn't sulking on the sideline with a towel over his head like last season's QB darling.
  • avatar

    Bottom line is losing 13 of the last 14 games, every player, including Freeman, is open for speculation as to whether they are a long term answer. When I see rookie QB’s coming into the league since him and outperforming him in their new systems with new coaches and without the benefit of all his NFL starts, I seriously question his progress or lack thereof.
  • avatar

    So why does Josh not look like the franchise QB he looked like 3 years ago? To me he looks like his pocket presence is the same, his confidence looks the same, his arm strength and accuracy look the same to me, he holds the ball too long (but he did that back then). What looks different to me is this. His fire. He doesn't look like that enthusiastic kid from 3 years ago, that expected to win. Now it looks to me like he is thinking too much and doesn't have the fire. QBs like Brady and more so Drew Brees bring that attitude with them. Where is that? I would love to see Josh grab a receiver and yell into his facemask or something. Something to show me he is engaged. I have no proof or statistics, just my eyeball telling me he is trying to stay too icy. I only see what the tv shows me. Maybe some of you folks that go to every game. Does Josh seem fired up?
  • avatar

    I would not say we go as Freeman goes, not 100% accurate. He plays a big part but it's a joint effort with the defense. Freeman had us with a lead against the Redskins when he left the field. Freeman had us with a lead against the Giants, then lead us back to tie it after we lost the lead. Freeman did not do well against the cowboys, but in that game - as an offense, I did not see us try anything creative and we just continue to pound the ball up the middle. In fairness, I will say that if he had hit some of the chances in the Cowboys game, maybe we escape with a win....but that gameplan was aweful. I think he will continue to improve and grow and WILL be re-signed. Knowing what we now know about the Raheem years, it's safe to say Freeman probably wasn't "coached" very well, if at all.
  • avatar

    I have never questioned Josh's work ethic. Everything I've seen or read has told me he wants to get better and works very hard at it. It's a huge positive IMO. When Coach got here he told us he wanted to run the ball at will and take shots down the field. Old school to be sure but with Josh's skills it should be in his wheelhouse when it all comes together. I remain confident it will.
  • avatar

    Mark, you are one of my favorite analyst/journalist reporting on the Bucs. But even you must admit that this is a tired and trite subject. Of course the Bucs success hinges on Freeman’s play as the success of every NFL team is determined by the play of their QB. You could change the names and write this same article about Aaron Rodgers and the Packers given the start of their horrible season and the level of his play so far. Don’t misunderstand my post because I cast no dispersions your way as I expect to see this same article written several times this week. This not your problem, but is rather endemic of the state of affairs at the Bucs since their inception. What year in their history was this never an issue? Somebody needs to write about why this is the case in Tampa. We’re expecting way too much from a single team member and we’re poised to force Freeman to join the likes of Young, Williams, and Dilfer to make his mark with another NFL team. And where will that leave us? Right back where we started with the local pen and mic club writing the same story all over again – “The Bucs success hinges on the play of the next QB”. The continuation of a never ending story!
  • avatar

    Mac if you take a look at the boards Freeman is a constant topic, I constantly get asked over and over abut Freeman. In fact last week when someone was commenting on Josh Freeman, someone else posted, are you listening MC? Then someone said we are on the Bucs payroll because we don't ask Freeman the tough questions. So I specifically went into the PC with that in mind. And guess what? t got nothing definitive...The reason no one has written "why this is the case in Tampa" as you suggested is, no one knows! And there will never be a definitive answer. We have all speculated a number of things. Play calling, Freeman's work ethic, his leadership etc... but we don't know for sure and may never know. All we can do is watch, ask, then write what we see. Trust me if I had the solution I would be sitting a glass office somewhere counting my millions. I appreciate the feedback mac.
  • avatar

    If you look at Freeman's numbers this season he has excelled for the most part the first 15 plays..scripted plays....then tends to struggle mid second into the third quarter with accuracy. Then in the fourth quarter takes command and again is pretty successful. There were some mid game throws against the Redskins and Giants where you wondered if he was seeing the same thing we all were. To me that means 1. He is comfortable with the scripted plays, as the team problem works them to death in practice. 2. Loses the flow when the script is finished. 3. Excels when he is allowed more freedom and thrives in pressure. So the job now is for the coaches to figure out how to eliminate that mid game lull and indecisiveness.
  • avatar

    Freeman is right when he says it's not about anything he is consistently doing wrong; it's about what he is not consistently doing right. He has been a streaky player going all the way back to college. When he is on, it's a real thrill to watch him, but when he is off, it is downright painful. Hopefully he will get on a hot streak soon, but I am beginning to have my doubts that he will ever be that consistent player you want as your franchise QB. If Sullivan & Turner can prove me wrong and figure out how turn him around, this team has the potential to be good for a long time.
  • avatar

    This is more of the same blah blah blah...it's all just a bunch a talk- let the QB turn in a few games where he shows up all four quarters then we can talk about him moving in the right direction- until then,use that work ethic to practice and better your game anyway you can- and stop interviewing this kid- it seems he doesn't have much to say most of the time..let him focus on his gameplay- that's all that matters..
  • avatar

    Just my opinion, I don't think people have questioned his work ethic, it's simply applying what you practice into game situations. An answer of "can't do this, can't do this, can't do this", that shows he and the coaches are identifying what he's doing wrong, but he needs to apply that in game situations.
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