There were a lot of things in Tampa Bay’s 20-7 victory over Carolina on Sunday that marked the growth and development of second-year quarterback Josh Freeman. After throwing five interceptions against the Panthers in the Bucs’ 16-6 defeat in Carolina last year, Freeman threw two touchdowns and was turnover-free.
When plays weren’t there in the passing game, Freeman decided to tuck the ball and run, picking up a career-high 43 yards and three first downs on four scrambles. Bucs head coach Raheem Morris listed a couple of other veteran-like decisions that Freeman made on Sunday.
“You are just amazed and so happy and so proud at what that kid’s been able to do and how far he’s come on the plays that he did make,” Morris said. “The bad snap in the air that he throws out of bounds. The screen that the Carolina Panthers did a great job of covering up he throws it at his feet. He’s able to get some balls off and when their guys are grabbing on to a receiver he gets a pass interference and gets another play.”
Morris also said that Freeman showed a bit of savvy by doing some acting after he was hit by rookie defensive end Greg Hardy. The incident occurred on third-and-9 at the Carolina 24 in the third quarter with the Bucs leading 17-7 and resulted in a first down. The Bucs would add another field goal to their point total four plays later.
“He absolutely pulls a Derek Jeter and pulled a flop when he got hit by a defender,” Morris said. “That was a great acting job. I was upset. I thought he got hit harder. He does a little acting out there.”
Freeman saw Hardy coming at him and as soon as contact was made he fell to the ground, dropped the football and flailed his arms up. That instantly drew a flag.
Bucs offensive coordinator Greg Olson differed slightly from Morris in his assessment of Freeman’s acting job.
“I don’t know if I would call it a flop. He did get hit on the play,” Olson said. “He probably added a little bit of drama to it, a little bit of flair to it. The thing with him now is that he took some shots a year ago that didn’t get called because he’s so big. If he doesn’t fall down the referees don’t think he got hit because he is 250 pounds. I told him, ‘If you are getting hit you make sure those officials know that you got hit.’”
Olson sees nothing wrong with his 6-foot-6, 255-pound quarterback making sure the officials notice that he gets hit.
“Not for a guy his size,” Olson said. “He needs to get a call occasionally on those.”
Whether it is rolling out and making dramatic, 40-yard passes to tight end Kellen Winslow, throwing the ball away, scrambling or even a little acting, Morris has been impressed with Freeman’s maturation process, which has played a key role in Tampa Bay’s 2-0 start this year.
“Some of the things he’s able to do from a quarterback standpoint are from a veteran’s standpoint in that game, and that was really impressive I was excited watching the tape and watching him grow,” Morris said.
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