Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Greg Olson deemed the installation of his new offense to be “ahead of schedule.” Olson also said that the development of second-year Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman, who started nine games in 2009, is right on schedule.
So far, so good.
That sums up the progress that Tampa Bay’s offense has made this offseason in its first full year with Greg Olson as the architect and play-caller. Olson said that the installation of the offense is further along than he expected heading into the final week of organized team activities.
“I think we’re ahead of schedule,” Olson said. “More so than anything this offseason has been the chance for me to get together with the assistant coaches and get everybody on the same page on the details with everything that we are trying to get accomplished. We didn’t have the chance to do that last year on the run, and practice the way we wanted to practice. Now we have the time with the whole installation and the volume of plays so everybody is comfortable with all of the details of coaching their position.”
Last year, holdover coaches like Olson, wide receivers coach Richard Mann and assistant receivers coach Tim Berbenich were shocked at how few plays former offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski had installed compared to the playbook they were running under Jon Gruden the previous season. That caused some real concern behind the scenes at One Buc Place and when Jagodzinski’s play-calling sputtered in preseason, head coach Raheem Morris fired Jagodzinski prior to the preseason finale` against Houston and promoted Olson from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator.
It was difficult for Olson to change course after all of Jagodzinski’s offense had been installed during the OTAs, mini-camp and training camp. It was even more difficult to try to mix in the familiar plays in Jagodzinski’s offense that he team had been practicing the entire offseason and the type of offense Olson wanted to run during the regular season.
In 2009, the results were as mixed as the playbook. In Week 1 against Dallas, the Bucs offense rolled up 450 yards and 26 first downs. In Week 13 at Carolina, Tampa Bay’s offense tallied a season-high 469 yards and produced 22 first downs. Against New Orleans in Week 16, the Bucs upset the Saints in overtime behind 439 yards and 24 first downs.
However, against the New York Giants in Week 3, the Bucs offense managed only five first downs and produced an embarrassing 86 yards of total offense in a 24-0 shutout. In Week 14 against the Jets, Olson’s offense was held to 124 yards and had six first downs in a 26-3 loss.
The Bucs ended the season ranked 28th in the NFL in total offense (23rd in rushing and 24th in passing), averaging 287.5 yards per game. The fact that Tampa Bay started three different quarterbacks, including rookie Josh Freeman didn’t help the offense achieve the consistency that Olson was looking for.
But now that Olson has had an entire offseason to implement his offense, and the fact that Freeman is entrenched as the starter, Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator is looking for better results in his scheme.
“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.”
Olson can’t find any fault in what’s happened this offseason offensively from having Cadillac Williams go through an offseason without rehab to the development of Freeman this spring, to the drafting of wide receivers Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams to the addition of new receivers coach Eric Yarber and new quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt.
“As a coaching staff, we’re a lot better off and a lot more cohesive right now,” Olson said. “There’s no indecision and no confusion. It’s not like it was last year. Last year there was a lot of stuff going on. I think the coaching staff – at least on the offensive side of the ball – would echo that. We’re much further ahead of where we were last year and where I expected us to be.”
Tampa Bay’s offense may be ahead of schedule in general terms, but Olson wouldn’t say that Freeman, who completed 54.5 percent of his passes while throwing for 1,855 yards with 10 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, was necessarily ahead of schedule. Instead, Olson deemed Freeman to be right on schedule in his development.
“He’s still developing,” Olson said. “He’s still a work in progress. Josh is still only a second-year player with nine starts. He’s a young player that came out [of Kansas State University] early, but he’s got the want-to and he’s come out and gotten better every day. That’s all you can ask for right now. He’s right where we were hoping he would be at this point. He’s on schedule. In the remaining practices I think he will show improvement in those and then make another leap this summer. We’re excited about how he’s coming along and how the offense is coming together.”
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