Over the past two seasons, arguably no player has developed faster in his position than Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman. Selected in the first round of the 2009 draft, the former Kansas State signal caller wasn’t an overly popular pick with many Tampa Bay fans at the time. Yet after stepping in midway through his rookie year, and then leading the Buccaneers to a 10-6 record in 2010, you wont find many, if any, who question the team’s decision to move up two spots to select Freeman with the 17th overall pick in the 2009 draft.
Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris praised his starting quarterback's performance in training camp and his cool demeanor and confidence in his Thursday afternoon press conference. When asked about what his expectations are for the third-year QB, Morris said that Freeman's expectations of himself are higher than anyone else's.
“For Freeman it is different anyway,” Morris said. “His expectations are high anyway. He considered himself a starter right from the beginning [in 2009]. [He] wanted to be a starter right from the beginning and took his time learning stuff. He was detailed enough to figure it out. So he won’t feel as much pressure [to perform in 2011]. He is going to be a performer.
“The only way you can sell these [game] tickets is to sell Freeman. He sold himself this offseason from his preparation standpoint. He sold himself as a person to the community by being here. And he sold himself to his teammates, and now its time to go out and perform.”
Freeman’s leadership, particularly in the offseason when he organized voluntary team activities, is something that Morris said can’t be appreciated enough.
“Those are the things I can believe by watching him go do it,” Morris said. “You don’t have to anoint guys like that. They anoint themselves.”
While Freeman is the clear-cut starter, Morris admires his backup, Josh Johnson, the Buccaneers' fifth-round pick in the 2008 draft. Johnson has grown immensely after getting four starts in 2009 and completing only 50 percent of his passes. Last year, Johnson completed 14-of-16 passes (87.5 percent) for 111 yards, while rushing for 39 yards on four carries (9.8 avg.) as a change-of-pace, wildcat QB in 2010.
“Josh [Johnson] is particularly fun for me,” Morris said. “He is so sharp, smart [and] detailed. I have no hesitation with him going out and executing any gameplan we put together. He has been a consummate pro since he has been here. He has gotten better and better every year from his throwing mechanics to his knowledge of the game.
“You have got to give his coaches credit, from AVP [Alex Van Pelt], Greg Olson, to Coach [Jon] Gruden [and] Paul Hackett. He has taken the best from all those guys and applied them to his game now. I look forward to watching him in the preseason every year. He is a delight and joy. He is a great competitor and has developed a role of supporting Freeman. We are fortunate to have him at least one more year. I’m extremely excited to have Josh Johnson.”
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