In his press conference on a rainy Monday afternoon at One Buc Place, Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman gave his thoughts on the team’s preseason play, running game, and a few teammates. In addition, he spoke on the upcoming season-opener against Detroit.
The third-year quarterback likes how his preseason played out.
“Honestly, I felt good,” Freeman said. “Obviously [in] the New England game [we] missed a couple of calls, but feel like we got right back where we needed to be for the Miami game. Everything with reps continues to get better [and] working together. I am really excited about where we're headed.”
The 6-foot-6, 248-pound quarterback is not very concerned about the team’s woes with the running game in the preseason. He realizes that this time of year does not always provide a true look at what will happen during the regular season. At times the running game just needs a little push in an effort to go strong.
“I'm not really worried about it,” Freeman said. “Just a matter of getting LeGarrette [Blount] cranked up. In the preseason it's tough because you only get a couple drives and you have to make the most of them. I remember games last year where [in] Seattle, for instance, the first couple drives we couldn’t get an inch in the running game, but I got him cranked up and I think he ran for about 150 that game. It's tough in the preseason to really get a genuine look of how everything is going to be.”
With the departure of Cadillac Williams this year, the Bucs have played since training camp with no clear third-down back. However, head coach Raheem Morris told the Pewter Report on Monday that Earnest Graham has taken the role at the moment. Freeman said likes what he's seen from Graham in regards to those situations.
“I feel like Earnest and Cadillac are very similar players,” Freeman said. “Very intelligent guys [and] I feel great having Earnest back there with me.”
When asked about people putting too much stock in how a team looks during the preseason, Freeman agrees that a team can always improve. He is excited to start the season and that excitement is echoed throughout the locker room by his teammates.
“You know you always [can] look better,” Freeman said. “Preseason is the time where it's a big evaluation period. Starting out things are not always going to be as sharp. You're not going to be in mid-season form, but at the same time we feel really good about where we are as an offense. In the locker room everybody is upbeat [and] everybody is excited about getting this season rolling.”
Freeman had nothing but praise for tight end Kellen Winlsow and it's no secret that they've developed an onfield chemistry.
“Yes, and teams know we like to throw to Kellen,” Freeman said. “So they're trying to double Kellen. There was one play where he had a little post down the middle and they just doubled him. The safety neglected his responsibility on the outside and just crashed on Kellen [and] the linebacker walled him from underneath. They know 82’s in the game and you hear defenses say it all the time. They are obviously aware of Kellen, but we are definitely going to do some things to get him the ball because we know how valuable he is. You just put it around him and he is going to make a play.”
In regards to third-string quarterback Rudy Carpenter, Freeman sees him as a great teammate and supporter. Even though it's unsure if guys such as Rudy and Jonathan Crompton will make the final roster, the starting quarterback likes the unit the team has in place.
“We love Rudy,” Freeman said. “He is a great guy [and] great teammate [and] great friend. I love where our quarterback room has been since I've been here. Crompton is also a great guy. There is something reassuring about being the starting quarterback when you got guys like Rudy and Josh Johnson in your corner always talking it up with you. They keep things fun during the week when you get late in the season and the weeks get long.”
Josh Freeman realizes once the regular season gets going that the team will need everyone to be completely involved. He likes how offensive coordinator Greg Olson has done a great job of getting various players involved because it causes the defense to become somewhat confused as to which player can get the ball.
“Once the season gets going it's all hands on deck,” Freeman said. “We are going to need every bit of everybody’s talent and everybody’s skill sets to go out and compete and find ways to win. Coach Olsen does a great job of mixing it up - mixing up personnel groups [and] getting everybody involved. [We] really found that out last year that it keeps defenses off balance because anybody can get the ball at any given time.”
In regards to the regular season, Freeman knows it is very important for the offense to go out and get points early in the game.
“It's huge,” Freeman said. “You got to find a way to put points on the board. That being said, it's about finding a way to win. Obviously you like to go out and play a complete game all four quarters with a green light playing great. It's the NFL - good defenses. It's not always going to be that way, but finding a way to maximize our potential on the first drive is going to be big for us this year.”
As a young team in the NFL, Freeman said he understands the team needs to improve upon sustaining quality drives from the opening whistle.
“Finding a way as a young team to consistently go out and put together a good drive at the beginning of the game is something that we got to work on.”
With the starters more than likely not getting any playing time during the final preseason game, which is typical, Freeman and the rest of the starters have already started to focus on their season opener at home verses the Detroit Lions on September 11.
“We've already started watching Detroit,” Freeman said. “They're a good team. [I'm] real excited. [It was] a close one with them last year. [We] just got to find a way to make those plays that we didn’t make last year to get the win.”