Bucs C Jeff Faine discussed the progress of the Buccaneers offense heading into the 2010 season, and the progress of G Arron Sears. Faine said that the offense was setback by a number of issues, and characterized the 2009 scheme as a ‘makeshift, draw-it-in-the sand offense." Faine said those issues won't be there this year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Jeff Faine discussed the progress that is going on at One Buc Place this offseason. During a 3-13 campaign in 2009, the Bucs offense never got off the ground. Near the end of the preseason the team fired offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski and replaced him with quarterbacks coach Greg Olson.
The Buccaneers changed quarterbacks three times before finally settling on firstr-round pick Josh Freeman, and had key injuries to Faine and wide receiver Antonio Bryant. Faine explained the challenge that is now thankfully in the past.
"Getting a year older at quarterback and having the same offensive coordinator where we are installing an offense now that we are going to use this year is going to help," Faine said. "We installed an offense last year that we didn't even really use. I'm not trying to make excuses. We could make excuses all day about the quarterbacks shuffling in and out. We didn't know if we were going to even have Josh Johnson or if our starter was going to be Byron Leftwich or Luke McCown. You didn't know who was going to be the starter. Now we're walking into a season where we have the starting quarterback, we have the offensive coordinator and the offense is in play. It's a little bit of what we did last year and we're building upon it. It's not some makeshift, draw-it-in-the-sand offense this year. We'll be able to go into the season with a solid foundation."
Faine played in 12 games after missing four games early in the season with a triceps injury he suffered against Dallas in the season opener. While he said that the torn triceps didn't impact him after he came back, the injury was detrimental to the teamwork of the offensive line.
"I pushed hard to get back on the field as soon as I could," Faine said. "I don't regret coming back as soon as I did. As the season went on I don't think it affected me in any way. I think the thing it affected the most part was the continuity of the line. I thought it was unfair where [Sean] Mahan was getting shuffled in and shuffled out. You have a young guy in [Jonathan Compas] where I think he is going to be a good player, and he was working a lot during the weeks in practice when I wasn't practicing as much as I could have or should have to help with the continuity of the line. I don't think it affected me too much as it affected the continuity of the line and us being able to work together and be on the same page. Working with a young guy like [Jeremy] Zuttah, for me and Davin [Joseph] there was a lot of carry over from the year before. Working with Zuttah, such a young guy, for him to know exactly what he was going to get from me, and me knowing what I was going to get from him I think that is the part if I had to say anything was missing, that's what was hurt."
The Buccaneers ground game never got going in 2009, and only one running back had a 100-yard rushing game last year, which was Cadillac Williams' effort in the overtime win at New Orleans. That is a sore statistic for Faine and the offensive line, but that was the result due to a few reasons.
"Oh for sure. I think one of the biggest things was – and I'm not blaming everybody – there was a string of games where we started with an interception right away," Faine said. "For us to start behind the eight ball like that it is hard as an offensive coordinator to stick with the run when you get behind. You win the coin toss, you take the ball, and then boom – you throw a pick. You're not going to get the ball to start the second half. You get down a touchdown. A three-and-out happens and you're down another touchdown. So I think there were a lot of situations where we set ourselves up to not stick with the run. I think when we did there was a stretch in Seattle and New Orleans when we were running it very well."
The quick interception is something that the Buccaneers are hoping won't carry over into 2010. Faine (6-3, 291) said that he is excited about what the future holds for Freeman, who is in his second year and entering his first full season as a starter. The 2009 rookie has been hard at work at One Buc Place throughout the offseason.
Freeman came into the lineup in 2009 when Tampa Bay was 0-7 and guided the Buccaneers to a 3-6 record over the remaining nine games, which impressed Faine.
"There were times where his natural abilities took over where it is not just him playing quarterback," Faine said. "Where he would take off and run 40 yards downfield where you see someone that size being able to move that way, and for him to make some of the throws he did. A couple that stick out in my mind is the Miami game where he really was showing what the future can hold, and showing what he did in practice. Being able to throw the ball 40 yards downfield and hit guys in stride, and put the ball in special places – it is a natural progression. At the end of the day he is a guy coming out of his rookie year and we are going to expect some mistakes to happen. We have to rally around him and keep him going."
Freeman (6-6, 248) showed the big-arm and athletic ability that made him a first-round pick last year. In 2009 there were some growing pains with Freeman as well when he averaged two interceptions per start. For the season the Kansas State product completed 54.5 percent of his passes for 1,855 yards with 10 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. The work ethic to get better has Faine optimistic for the 2010 season.
"For us older guys it is encouraging to see a young guy put the time and effort in to get better," Faine said. "It is something that's necessary. It is amazing how much you grow between your first year and your second year and exponentially as you go. I'd like to see some big things out of him. He's getting a lot more responsibility this year. He can take a little more off my shoulders. He's really learning the offense. He's really learning other defenses. It is funny to sit and watch tape with him where he recognizes and sees the mistakes he made last year. Now he realizes that they were rookie mistakes. He can see when he was caught up in the situation he couldn't see that. It is encouraging to see that growth, and it is going to happen naturally. He's fallen into that leadership position that naturally comes from that quarterback position."
Faine also gave an update regarding the return of guard Arron Sears. In 2009, Sears sat out the season due to a personal issue. He returned to the team late in the year and began the process of getting back into football shape after really putting on some weight. The physical progress was a secondary goal for Faine and Sears' other teammates.
"He's been in and been around," Faine said. "I think the best thing I can say about the situation right now is, it's good to see a smile on his face. It is good to see him back to his normal self and joking a little bit, and being able to interact with the guys. He's been around working out with the guys. Obviously, he's trying to work back into it and we are hoping for the best. It is just good to see a smile on his face and him happy to be apart of the team."
Sears was a starter at left guard from 2007-2008 after being a second-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Sears was one of the Buccaneers best and most consistent linemen in that two-year stretch. Sears has yet to speak to the media since returning to the team. After missing offseason workouts, training camp, and most of the 2009 season Sears had a long way to go to get back into playing shape.
"I think the best way I can describe it is for the two months I was off, I gained 10 pounds and was out of shape," Faine said. "He's been off for a year. He's working back into it, and he's making strides. He's getting back into shape. Is he ready to play now? No. But I'm not ready to play now, either. That's what this (offseason program) is for, and he had a year off, so he's getting back into it."
Faine, a team captain and leader of the offense, is trying to help Sears and his other teammates get better. Faine, 29, would prefer to be playing for a championship, but he is not bitter that he is part of the Buccaneers are rebuilding.
"I'm excited," Faine said. "We have some young players with real good potential. Obviously we have a great pick coming up in the draft and hopefully that player will be able to come in and contribute right away. We're rebuilding from what the nucleus was two years ago. It's a process. It sucks that we're doing it at this point in my career, but it is what it is. It has to happen every so often."
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