Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman says that he has learned a lot from his five-interception outing against the Panthers. Freeman will have to try and rebound against the New York Jets number one rated pass defense in the NFL. The rookie Freeman said the last game has been the biggest obstacle thus far in his first year.
Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman said the past three days have been the toughest challenge he has been faced with in his young NFL career. Dealing with a five interception performance against the Carolina Panthers has been a bigger ordeal than learning an NFL offense, getting used to the speed of the NFL, and moving to a new city far from his family in Kansas.
"I'd probably say this past week," Freeman said when asked about his biggest obstacle. "I felt like we had ample opportunities to win that ball game. I feel like it was me turning the ball over which stopped us from doing that. You never go out planning on having a day like that. At the same time you have to learn from it and move on. It has really been a fairly smooth transition going from not playing to playing. Coach Olson does a great job of breaking down the film with me and going over what I'll see, so when you go on the field you know what you are going to see, the protection calls you are going to make, and the protection calls that Jeff Faine is going to make, and you're ready to go."
The Buccaneers produced 469 yards of offense in Carolina on Sunday. That was the fifth-highest offensive outing posted by a Bucs team in their history. Freeman completed 23-of-44 passes for 321 yards and tossed no touchdowns and five picks in Carolina.
"I learned a lot because each interception was a different scenario," Freeman said. "You learn that even though you want to take your shots and be aggressive you got to still make it appropriate like the one to [Bryant] in the end zone. He kind of broke his route off, instead of taking a shot I should have thrown it through the back of the end zone. If we punch it in it would have been a completely different ball game.
"You re-live it perfectly when you are watching the film the next day. I re-lived it thinking about it the entire night until we watch the film and move on to the Jets."
On the season, Freeman has completed 54.4 percent of his passes for 1,114 yards and tossed seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Freeman's teammates are rallying around him and offering support. Starting right tackle Jeremy Trueblood is also facing some criticism for mistakes in Carolina
, he was asked what his advice is for the Buccaneers' rookie signal caller.
"Forget the bad and move on," Trueblood said in terms of his advice for Freeman. "It's very obvious to me what he's capable of doing. There's no need to focus on the negative things. What good is that really going to do him? He needs to learn from mistakes and focus on the positives. I don't know much about being a quarterback, but I can tell you this much; it's not good to focus on the negatives."
Freeman started the game with a 26-yard pass to wide receiver Maurice Stovall, and went on to lead the Buccaneers to having their first 100-yard game for a wide receiver this season. Antonio Bryant caught five passes for 116 yards, and Stovall had four catches for 68 yards. Two of Freeman's interceptions were intended for Stovall, and two were intended for Bryant.
"You have to learn from your mistakes," Stovall said. "When you watch film on Monday you see things that you could have done better to help the situation. It is never just one guy that messes up the plays. You have to hold yourself accountable and come back and work hard in the weight room and practice, and be ready."
The advice is coming from others in the organization as well. Freeman was asked who has given him the best advice with rebounding from a rough game and the young quarterback cited two quarterbacks that have suited up for the Buccaneers, one recently and one from long ago.
"Probably a tie between Doug Williams and Byron Leftwich," Freeman said. "Doug was telling me about a game in one of his playoff years where he threw five or six [interceptions] against San Francisco. He said you can't let it get you down. You can't let it take away your edge. He's like you are who you are and you have to keep throwing the ball. Also Bryon he said he watched the game and other than those five plays he thought I played well. It is a mater of just eliminating those things and when you do have a game like that being able to respond and come back with a positive attitude and ready to work."
It won't get any easier for Freeman despite returning to Raymond James Stadium. This week Freeman will try and rebound while going against the number one rated pass defense in the NFL. The New York Jets defense is allowing only 167 yards on average through the air in 2009. Overall New York has the second ranked defense and is 17th against the run, 109 yards per game. Jets head coach Rex Ryan is known for his exotic and aggressive blitzes. Ryan is in his first year as head coach for New York after having a lot of success as the defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens.
"Any time you are playing a Ryan led defense you are going to get something unique," said Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris. "They've been doing it for years, from their dad (Buddy Ryan) to both of them being coordinators (Rex and Rob) in the league. They continue to do it. Everything they bring and everything that they do has a lot of packages and has people coming from everywhere. You got to be able to protect. You got to be able to win your one-on-one battles."
The Ryans both entered the NFL as part of their father's coaching staff with the Arizona Cardinals in 1994. Rob Ryan is currently defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns after being with the Oakland Raiders from 2004-2008. Morris believes that Freeman has the makeup to bounce back from his rough game despite facing Ryan's aggressive defense.
"Freeman is one of those guys that is mentally tough enough to figure out what went wrong and not make the same mistakes," Morris said. "He made some mistakes in the preseason. They kind of went away. Then he came back and made new mistakes the other day. Hopefully those will go away as well. He continues to get better and better every week. His most prolific day as a passer happened to be his worst day as well."
The Jets defense features a lot of playmakers. Linebackers Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, and David Harris are all having productive seasons. Cornerback Darrelle Revis has stacked his claim at being one of the best corners in the NFL in his third NFL season. Revis has five interceptions and 23 passes broken up. Lining up across from Revis is two-time pro bowler Lito Sheppard. Bucs offensive coordinator Greg Olson said the Jets defense has caused his unit to have to do some extra work this week.
"[Freeman] got in early yesterday because we knew this week was going to be somewhat of a problem," Olson said. "I think everybody involved in the protection scheme from the linemen to the running backs to the quarterbacks have been spending extra time today. We got a head start today on the nickel blitzes, and the third-down blitzes. Hopefully Sunday we'll have a pretty good feel for it."
Some of the drama of the game was removed when the Jets scratched quarterback Mark Sanchez from the starting lineup. Freeman and Sanchez will be linked throughout their careers, as both were first-round picks in the 2009 NFL Draft. The other first-round quarterback was the number one overall pick, Detroit's Matthew Stafford. The Jets were slated to pick at the 17th overall pick but traded up to the fifth spot with the Cleveland Browns to select Sanchez. The Bucs traded up with the Browns from 19 to 17 to get Freeman.
Sanchez has completed 53.2 percent of his passes for 2,049 yards and tossing 11 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Sanchez has also run for three touchdowns this season.
"Of course you always want to be regarded as the best," Freeman said of a rivalry with the other quarterbacks in his draft class. "I mean I think this is the only time the rookie quarterbacks are playing each other. I'm real supportive of those guys. They will always be in the 2009 draft class with me. We'll always be remembered together. Whenever I'm watching them on TV I'm pulling for them to do well. When we are playing them obviously you don't want them to do well.
"If I had to go back and do the draft again I'd be fine with going 17. I love being in Tampa. I love the coaches and the people I'm working with."
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