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September 6, 2011 @ 7:21 pm
Current rating: 4.00 Stars/1 Votes

Last Year’s Detroit Loss In Freeman’s Rearview Mirror

Written by Eric
Horchy
Eric Horchy

Eric
Horchy

Beat Writer E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman took time Tuesday to discuss Sunday's season opener against Detroit, comparisons to fellow Class of 2009 NFL Draft selection and current Lions QB Matthew Stafford, the Bucs growth on offense and the passing of a franchise-legend Lee Roy Selmon.

As much as last year's 23-20 Week 15 defeat to Detroit stung last December, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman said his focus heading into Sunday afternoon's opener is solely on the 2011 Lions - not the team that came to Raymond James Stadium in 2010.

Yes, last year's overtime loss dropped Tampa Bay to 8-6 at the time. And yes, the defeat ultimately led to the Bucs being shut out of the postseason after eventually winning out to finish 10-6. But Freeman's a here-and-now kind of guy and said as much Tuesday afternoon prior to practice.

"[It's] a different year. You can’t really dwell on last year. We just know who they are this year and what kind of team they have."

Considering backup QB Drew Stanton was under center that December afternoon in place of injured starter Matthew Stafford and the Lions are coming into Tampa Bay confident off a much-hyped 4-0 preseason, washing their hands of last year's game probably isn't a bad idea.

"They have a really good team and we have our work cut out for us," Freeman said. "We’re going to have to play this game extremely hard and execute if want to have a chance to come out on top."

Stafford has been plagued by injuries in his brief career but is the primary reason why the Lions are garnering so much positive attention around the league. The 6-foot-2, 232-pound quarterback out of Georgia lit it up this preseason, finishing with a 154.7 QB rating after completing 25 of 33 passes for 395 yards and five touchdowns.

Aside from just being young quarterbacks with tremendous upsides as they continue growing into NFL starters, Freeman and Stafford will forever be linked and compared by many because of the 2009 NFL Draft. Detroit made Stafford the No.1 overall selection that year and Freeman was picked up not long after by Tampa Bay at No. 17. Also taken above Freeman in that draft was Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets, at No. 5.


Freeman admitted he may have caught himself tracking his progress side-by-side with Stafford and Sanchez as a rookie from time to time. Now, he said, the emphasis is more on keeping pace with the quarterbacks at the top of their games that specific season, not just the ones in his own draft class.

"Maybe in the rookie year you look to see how Stafford did and how Sanchez did, the two guys in your class, but now you just look around the league and see who the top performers are and try to measure yourself off them."

As for the head-to-head battle, Freeman was nonchalant about how much it should be looked into and said he's more concerned about the competition with reigning NFL Rookie of the Year Ndamukong Suh and the Lions defense.

"It's interesting because a lot of people have been asking me about that," Freeman said about the matchup with Stafford. "I found playing against any good quarterback that you kind of have to take that whole quarterback vs. quarterback mentality out of your mind because you're playing against a defense. He has to contend with [DT] Gerald McCoy and I have to contend with [DT] Ndamukong Suh. That's who I have to worry about ... worry about their secondary and their defense. If I get caught up in what Matthew Stafford is doing it will take a little bit away from what I need to be doing game plan-wise."

Of course, at 6-foot-4, 307-pounds, Suh is a large part of that game planning.

"He's a good player," Freeman said. "Their whole front four. Their D-line is all effort guys and very talented. Going into this game, we know we're going to have to be on it - the offensive line [and] me with protection calls and everything else so we can give ourselves a chance to make plays."

Rounding out the Lions' defensive front Freeman was speaking of are LE Cliff Avril, DT Corey Williams and RE Kyle Vanden Bosch.

Away from the Detroit-centric discussion, the question was asked to Freeman if he believes this year's team is poised to improve on its ranking of 20th in terms of scoring. Tampa Bay scored 341 total points in 2010, good for an average of 21.3 per game. Of the 341 total, 313 came courtesy of the offense after subtracting the Bucs' three defensive touchdowns and one kick return for a score. That gives the offense a true average of 19.6 points per game of responsibility.

Loaded with young and inexperienced players, the third-year quarterback said the offense is more focused on controlling the ball and its tempo right now rather than setting stat sheets afire with blazing numbers.

"As everybody progresses and everybody grows, we'll become more comfortable with each other in different situations and be able to start taking more shots. [We'll] be able to take advantage of the nuances of defenses because we've played together [longer]."

Freeman added that even while players become more in sync after time, Tampa Bay's balanced offensive scheme is not exactly conducive to the type of eye-popping statistical production that leads to consistent 40-plus point games.

"The team is not an extremely explosive, throw-the-ball-down-the-field, light-up-the-scoreboard type of team," he said. "We're more of a just stay-in-the-game type. We just compete. We go out and we run our offense. We're not going to go out and throw the ball 50 times a game. We might pass more or run more depending on the game plan and who we're playing, but as a young offense, we can't go out and be world beaters right off the bat. That's kind of our mentality. We want to play well, but at the same time, we want to play smart and play ball security. I think that is one of the reasons why we weren't extremely high in scoring offense, but we found a way to move the ball down the field and found a way to win games. And that's what it's all about."

Before wrapping up the media session, Freeman commented on the passing of former Buccaneers great Lee Roy Selmon, who passed away Sunday after suffering a stroke two days prior.

"I never got a chance to see Lee Roy [play], but he was the first Buccaneer," he said, referring to the fact that Selmon was Tampa Bay's first-ever draft pick during the team's inaugural 1976 NFL Draft. Freeman said it was an honor having the opportunity to speak with Selmon and witness how much of an impact he had on the community.

"He was a great friend and mentor to a lot of guys on our team. He will be missed."

Last modified on Wednesday, 07 September 2011 18:14
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COMMENTS

  • avatar


    WELL BUC FANS MR LEE ROY SELMON WAS THE NUMBER ONE BUC PERIOD. I THINK THAT TAMPA BAY WILL TREAT THIS GAME AS A MUST GAME OUT OF THE GATE. BESIDES I THINK THE TEAM WILL THINK OF WHAT LEE ROY SELMON DID WHILE HE WAS IN THE GAME, AND I THINK THE NEW BUCS FROM LAST YEAR AND THE NEW BUCS WILL DRIVE IT HOME WITH A BIG WIN. MAYBE TAMPA WILL NOT GET THE HEADLINES THAT CHICAGO AND ATLANTA WILL GET. BUT REMEMBER TAMPA WILL GET ITS CHANCE THIS YEAR. AND I BELIEVE THAT THEY WILL JUST FINE. I SAY TAMPA COULD GO 11 &5 AND WIN THE SOUTH DIVISION. GO BUCS
  • avatar

    I'm with "bigbuc" on this. Unless this is misinformation intended to mislead and confuse then enemy, then Josh and his not-so-young-anymore offense needs to get out there and put up some points. 30 (+/-) will probably be necessary to stay in games with a truly young defense on the other side. May take 35 or more will get us to the playoffs. NO, Atl, Hous, Clts, GB etc ... these folks score and can't be beaten by three TDs and a cloud of FGs. Go Bucs!
  • avatar


    I agree with buctebow about the screens. This team doesn't run screens nearly enough. It seems to be OC independent though. The Bucs haven't screened enough as far back as I can remember. All that means is that teams don't game plan for it against us so we always seem to get good plays out of it when the QB throws it correctly and the RB catches it. I'm talking about real screens; not that bubble screen crap.
  • avatar

    Not to sound 'negative' at such an exciting time, but it is a little disappointing to read: "We're more of a just stay-in-the-game type. We just compete. We go out and we run our offense. " This would be fine, if #99, 55 and 47 were lining up on the defensive side. "Get us 17 and we'll get you the win", right Warren? Freeman is by far the greatest asset the team has. He may never get a better receiving corps than Winslow, Williams, Benn, and Briscoe. No pressure, Josh, but it is up to you to go win games. Not to "stay in the game". Playing "not to lose" cost the Bucs the Detroit game last year and a trip to the playoffs. Call me crazy, but the seats will fill up quicker if the Bucs start playing with an attitude, taking no prisoners, and bringing bad intentions to the field. Make teams afraid to come to RayJay again. Don't strive for competence-- you are well past that. Strive for domination and humbling of the visitors. Remember, no team can be better than what they think of themselves-- so think big. Go Bucs!
  • avatar


    FYI: according to team Roster, it looks like TE Daniel Hardy is off the Practice Squad and DE George Johnson is on. Curious that TE Collin Franklin remained and Hardy didn't.
  • avatar


    Where did you see this?
  • avatar


    Stay in your game. Run some screens when they are overly aggressive. Beat their @ss!
  • avatar


    Lets just get this win anyway it works out. Go Bucs! The time to show us what you've got.
  • avatar


    Typically when talking match-ups it's a strength vs. strength conversation. However, on opening day the Bucs' will be unavailing their new front 7, led by a highly drafted and rotating D-line that will be facing a Detroit team that has refused to address the LT position for the last 2 years. I would be stunned if McCoy doesn't make an impassioned Gipper type Selmon speech that combined with the emotions of opening day at home and 9/11 could possibly be the strongest motivation outside of a playoff birth these guys will get all season. Bottom line: this game is a great opportunity for the new D-line to show where this team is going.
  • avatar


    As the great and well-dressed Hank Stram would say, "Just keep matriculating the ball down the field boys." Hopefully the offense has a few better 3rd and 1 plays.
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