Thursday night on Buccaneers Total Access, wide receiver Michael Clayton had praise for both of Tampa Bay's young quarterbacks, rookie Josh Freeman and second-year pro Josh Johnson.
Clayton was very impressed with the way Freeman handled himself during his first career start against Green Bay, and thinks that he has a very bright future ahead of him.
"He did it all as a rookie quarterback and I was proud of him as a veteran receiver," Clayton said. "I've seen a lot and for him to make the decisions that he made, under the circumstances, he did a great job and everybody would say that."
Freeman, 21, completed 14 of his 31 pass attempts for 205 yards and threw three touchdowns along with one interception in a 38-28 win against the Packers. In that game, he also showed his ability to get the ball down field, which could open up the Buccaneers passing game that ranks 23rd in the league.
"You saw a lot of his potential and he has a lot more," said Clayton. "We see these things on a day in and day out basis. [His arm] is huge. You definitely have to stay alive being on the outside when it's just a clear route. It's just been a clear route or a decoy route [in the past] and now it's a viable throw, and the guy can hit it. He makes his progressions, he reads his routes, reads the defense, and he makes great decisions with the football. He has every ability to make every throw on the field, and most of all, he has touch."
The rookie quarterback out of Kansas State showed great touch on many of the passes he threw against Green Bay, including a touchdown pass on the run to tight end Kellen Winslow and a touchdown pass to Sammie Stroughter in the back of the end zone, which put the Bucs in position to win the game.
"A quarterback with touch is a good one to have," said Clayton. "Being a wide receiver [and playing with] a guy that has touch, you feel like you're not going to drop a ball because it just sticks to your hands. [Freeman] has that ability to put the ball in the right places at the right time, and he's only going to get better."
Clayton also talked about Freeman's ability to learn from the great quarterbacks in the league, such as Peyton Manning, by studying them in the film room.
"As receivers, we say, ‘Hey man, pump fake, get the safety off of us so you can make the throw,' and to be able to do that as a young guy, it's going to become second nature for him," said Clayton. "It's phenomenal to finally be in a situation with a young quarterback that you can learn with, get to know, and get better with. That's only going to make this organization better."
Freeman is clearly the future at quarterback for the Buccaneers, but Clayton also has confidence that backup Josh Johnson can get the job done if he is ever called upon.
"Josh Johnson has all the capabilities of a big time quarterback," said Clayton. "He also can make every throw on the field, and he's a guy that is a mobile quarterback."
Johnson, 23, completed 50.4 percent of his passes when given the chance to play QB this season, and has rushed for 148 yards on 22 rushing attempts.
"Under certain circumstances, we've been in a situation here where our offensive line hasn't been as good as others, and a quarterback that has no mobility doesn't stand a chance," said Clayton. "I've been through that where you know a lot of teams are looking for a good mobile quarterback, but the one thing about Johnson is that he's a smart guy. He knows defenses and he can read defenses. That's why he was put in a position to go in after [Byron] Leftwich because he was prepared, and Josh Freeman was still getting prepared. As a young guy to come in and do what he's done, being at the bottom tier of quarterbacks and just holding on by a thread, not getting any reps during the week, going into a preseason game and showing poise by leading the team on 70-yard drives, and going in and winning ball games, he has all the capabilities of being a big-time quarterback."
Johnson will have to be patient as he waits for another opportunity because this is Freeman's team now. However, many teams in the NFL go through more than one quarterback in a season due to injury, and Clayton is positive that Johnson will get back out on the field one day.
"His time is going to come back around, and that I know from my time in the league," said Clayton. "His time is one hit away, and he's a guy that can definitely get it done. He's only getting better right now playing behind Josh Freeman. Without a doubt he's going to get an opportunity again and I definitely have full confidence he's going to be able to handle it."