Second-year quarterback Buccaneers Josh Freeman feels the offensive installation is progressing well during the organized team activities. Freeman has been getting over two-thirds of the total snaps in offensive coordinator Greg Olson’s system during OTAs (organized team activities) and has the offense on schedule this offseason.
“It is going well, but it’s not that we are implanting a whole new offense. They just changed a lot of things to coach Olson’s likings,” said Freeman. “It might have been a little bit different than what Coach [Jeff] Jagodzinski installed last year.”
Last year, Olson replaced Jagodzinski right before the preseason finale` and the offense was unable to find much rhythm, going through two quarterbacks before settling on Freeman, the team’s first-round pick in 2009, as the starter. Tampa Bay finished with the 28th-ranked offense in the NFL by averaging 287.5 yards per game. The Bucs had the 24th-ranked passing attack and 23rd-ranked running game.
According to Freeman, the biggest difference in the offense is the terminology and the size of the playbook. A year ago, a criticism of Jagodzinski’s offense was that it was very short on plays and protection calls. The 22-year old Freeman was asked if the volume of the offense is a lot bigger in June of 2010 compared to June of 2009.
“Yeah, I’d say so, but we feel like we have a second-year team, a second-year system so we feel we can put more on our workload,” said Freeman. “Just how things are labeled. How formations are called. There are different ways of running a lot of different stuff. Coach Olson prefers it a certain way and its working pretty good so far.”
Olson classified his offense as a mixture between Jon Gruden’s West Coast offense and the offense that he ran in St. Louis with former Rams head coach Scott Linehan, who kept a lot of the downfield passing game concepts from the days when Mike Martz ran the Rams offense.
“To me it’s a version of the West Coast [offense],” Olson said. “I’ve taken a couple of principles that I’ve worked for in the past, primarily in the West Coast offense, but we’ve also sprinkled in some of the Mike Martz-St. Louis Rams vertical stretch. You’ll see a little of both. Hopefully we’ll be a very aggressive offense. Certainly we’re going to run the football. Running the football is important to this team. We understand that. It’s going to be an explosive offense.”
In 10 games and nine starts Freeman threw for 1,855 yards with 10 touchdowns and 18 interceptions and 10 fumbles. The 6-foot-6, 248-pound signal caller said he would be happy to hand the ball off and go away from the passing game if that was necessary.
“You know I understand that some teams have really good run defenses and some teams have really good pass defenses,” said Freeman. “If it calls for them to get the ball 100 percent of the time during the season to win, I’m happy for that. I just want to win football games. Whatever that formula is. Cadillac [Williams] and I were talking that our best game as team on offense was probably the New Orleans game, and it wasn’t because of how I played but Cadillac was able to get the ball in the two-minute at the end of the game run it down and kick the field goal to win it.”
Freeman said they hit big plays downfield to wide receiver Maurice Stovall, wide receiver Terrence Nunn and tight end John Gilmore among others during Tuesday’s OTA.
“When we take shot plays we aren’t just throwing it up to be a shot play,” said Freeman. “Often times it will be a play called with an alert so if you get a specific coverage, a shot play is going to be there and if you get a favorable matchup to run a shot play. Basically, it is a play to have outlets, quick gains, intermediate routes, and then maybe one shot every now and then. I think it is really coming together. Today was a good day. We hit a few shot plays. We got guys out of position on defense, and have had a lot of explosive plays from a lot of different players. It is exciting to see as a quarterback.”After struggling to complete passes in the open media OTA on Monday
, Freeman said improving the completion percentage was the goal on Tuesday and beyond. In his rookie season Freeman completed 54.5 percent of his passes.
“Today the goal was a high completion percentage. That has always been a theme ever since we started these OTAs,” said Freeman. “Also just fundamentals. Keeping both hands on the ball. Going back through watching the season watching whether it was strip or a fumble due to a lack of ball security, so that has been a big emphasis this camp, keeping two hands on the ball and getting the ball out.”
Olson said that the revised OTA schedule this year has allowed the Buccaneers offense to become more cohesive this offseason and tackle different types of situational football.
“The biggest thing for us was when we pushed the OTAs back to all of them behind the draft, we have had a chance to have all of the rookies here,” Olson said. “That’s been real important because of the amount of young players that we are going to ask to play. That’s been a major improvement in my opinion – having these practices together. The other thing we have been able to do right now is the emphasis has been on situational football. It’s difficult without pads to work on the run game as much. When you don’t have pads it’s difficult to work full-contact practices. We’ve emphasized the passing game and we’ve emphasized the red zone work and the two-minute situations. We’re getting a ton of work in those areas and it’s been real beneficial.”
To help Freeman improve in 2010 and in seasons to come, Tampa Bay drafted wide receivers Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams last April. Benn and Williams both are players with athletic ability and big play potential. Freeman has been putting in some extra time studying the offense with them, and hasn’t been shy about correcting them in practice.
“Mike, those guys coming in haven’t played in our system,” said Freeman. “If you run a wrong route or take an extra step, that really doesn’t fly in a game, so I stressed to them that is very crucial just that everything is precise. Mike is a big physical hard-working guy. As a quarterback you got to be excited about guys like that. Mike brings a different element of speed. I’ve seen on a few plays if you put it out there and give him a chance he’ll run it down for you. To have a guy like that it is just a matter of time of getting him to where he feels comfortable with the offense and can play full speed and I can see him making a lot of big plays for us this year.
“The two new guys, Sammie Stroughter, we have a number of guys on the roster this year that level up when it comes to explosiveness.”
Olson said that Williams has really caught the team’s attention first with his playmaking ability and athleticism.
“We’re excited about him, and not just about what he’s doing on the football field, but we’re excited about him being around the building,” Olson said. “He’s been a pleasure to coach. He’s been on time to meetings. He’s done everything we’ve asked of him in terms of study and in terms of his effort out on the field. We think we have a player right now. Obviously, it’s early in the process, but we like what we’ve seen from Mike.”
Olson also likes what he has seen from Freeman and how the offense has come together during the install periods so quickly over the last few weeks.
“I like the fact that we have a starting quarterback and we’ll know who will be the starter from Day One,” Olson said. “That’s obviously real important to the success and continuity of our offense right now. We’ve added some playmakers. We’re excited about Mike Williams and we’re excited about Rejus Benn. Those are two solid receivers. We’ve got a nucleus of players that are returning and we feel comfortable with the players that are returning to the team.
“There is a limit to the amount of time that you can spend with the players during the OTAs. We try not to keep them here in the building all day long. Certainly the quarterbacks take it upon themselves to be here early and stay late. They know that is what’s required of them and that’s what is required of them to be successful in this league. We’ve got quite a few players that are spending extra time watching film, but we have meetings in the morning, a practice in the afternoon and a quick meeting after practice as well.”
The long, offseason hours Buccaneers like Freeman are expected to pay off in a better effort than the 3-13 record Tampa Bay put forth in 2009.
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