Where has the 2010 Josh Freeman disappeared to? After having what most considered a breakout season last year, something is clearly wrong with who the Buccaneers organization likes to think of as “The Franchise.”
Freeman looked like a rookie quarterback unable to decipher the Wade Phillips ran Texans’ defense. To be fair to Freeman, the Buccaneers aren’t the first offense to be made to look inept by Houston’s 3-4 defensive scheme.
Freeman actually had more success when throwing the deep ball today. In the first quarter he recognized Arrelious Benn in man coverage and put nice touch on a pass that ended up as a 33-yard gain. Later in the half Freeman again checked out of a play when seeing the Texans in man press-coverage on Mike Williams. He threw a deep fade that Williams was able to haul in for 23 yards. But for whatever reason those were the only deep ball throws the rest of the afternoon.
Freeman actually said in his post game news conference he feels he is a better quarterback than last season. Hopefully he meant as far as preparation and film study goes. His play itself is nowhere near where it was at this point last season. Finishing a game with a 31.8 QB rating is unacceptable even by rookie standards.
What started off nicely soon ended up a disaster, as the Buccaneers defense allowed the Texans to score early and seemingly move the ball at will. The Buccaneers offense must take some blame also as penalties and poor pass protection haunted this group all day.
With those things combined, the offensive game plan was once again abandoned before halftime and LeGarrette Blount, who averaged 5.7 yards per carry in the first quarter, was only given 10 total chances to carry the football. For the game, Blount rushed for 34 yards on his 10 attempts.
Kregg Lumpkin, who has taken his fair share of abuse, is settling in as a decent third-down back and did some good things today. Lumpkin finished with 31 yards on four carries (7.8 yard average) and also led the Bucs in receptions with five catches for 30 yards.
As noted in last week’s Round Table, the Buccaneers’ tight ends have not performed very well this season and may be the weakest unit on the team. Sunday did nothing to change people’s minds.
Kellen Winslow was once again held in check, hauling in just three Freeman passes for 33 yards, and Zack Pianalto added one just reception for zero yards.
Luke Stocker continues to be a ghost of what the Buccaneers expected when selecting him in the fourth round of April's draft.
What has been one of the steadier units this season also joined in the underperforming party Sunday afternoon. The O-line seemed overwhelmed at picking up the Texans’ 3-4 schemes and Josh Freeman was dropped four times on the afternoon.
On Tampa Bay’s opening drive the Buccaneers moved to the Texans 33-yard line, but on third-and-5 Freeman was sacked and the Bucs were forced to punt. It didn’t get better.
Davin Joseph gave up his first sack of the season when beat by ILB Brain Cushing. But to be fair, Cushing looped around center Jeff Faine and Joseph lost him in the shuffle. Without knowing the line call it seemed Faine should have come off his block on the nose tackle and allowed Joseph to block down on Faine’s man.
Left guard Jeremy Zuttah returned to his starting spot after missing last week’s game with a knee injury suffered against the Bears but didn’t fare well committing two penalties.
Combining for just six receptions with Mike Williams, Preston Parker and Arrelious Benn, it is hard to grade this unit without the benefit of a second watching. The times Freeman trusted his receivers the group usually made the most of their opportunities, although each had at least one drop.
The separation when lined up against man-to-man seemed better and Freeman burned the Texans twice, with one each to Williams and Benn.
Dezmon Briscoe, who has been described as having the best hands on the team, had an early drop and was also unable to haul in a bizarrely called fade in the corner of the end zone on fourth-and-2 late in the first half.
It says a lot about your football team when a player who was claimed off waivers on a Wednesday afternoon, and with only the benefit of two practices, starts for your team. But Albert Haynesworth played better than most expected and finished the game with five tackles despite being held on several plays. Haynesworth knows this is most likely his last chance and played like someone out to prove the skeptics wrong. However the motor must continue to run hard for more than one game to get the critics off his back.
Adrian Clayborn had an up and down day. Flying around and playing with lots of energy, he did commit two costly neutral zone infractions and missed a few tackles in the backfield. Clayborn again was held without a sack but did cause disruption. However disruption is a long way from production, and, being a first-round pick, Clayborn must produce even more. The rookie from Iowa ended the game with four tackles.
Michael Bennett also played well while totaling five tackles, including two for loss on the day. That's the same number as Brain Price, who also had the only sack on the afternoon.
While on the stat sheet the numbers look good, the fact is that the Texans ran for 185 yards and averaged 4.2 yards per carry; numbers that aren’t associated with winning football.
Adam Hayward started for the second week in a row and led the Buccaneers with eight tackles, but didn’t contribute any “splash” plays.
Mason Foster finished with five tackles, but followed suit with rest of the unit by making no splash plays. Quincy Black had three stops and was the only linebacker to record a tackle for loss.
Geno Hayes had four tackles on the afternoon in limited duty but didn’t do a whole lot to earn his starting position back.
I’m not sure there has been a more disappointing unit than this group this season. The Buccaneers need their linebackers to make more a difference for the defense to have success, but other than Foster early in the year, no one has stepped up.
Texans quarterback Matt Schaub only attempted 15 passes on the day, completing 11. But those 11 went for 242 yards, including 80- and 78-yard touchdown passes.
The opening play of the game (80-yard TD strike to Jacoby Jones) saw a blown coverage in the secondary then poor tackling down field. The 78-yarder was a simple pass in the flat to RB Arian Foster, who then made Aqib Talib miss then split the safeties for a score.
Aqib Talib did have one pick early in the game, but the referee, John Parry, ruled Talib didn’t have control of the football in what appeared to be an interception and fumble that Talib was able to get back.
Sadly PK Conner Barth and punter/KOS Michael Koenen have been the two most dependable players for Tampa Bay all season. That isn’t a knock on these two but when your kickers are your team MVP’s it is no surprise Tampa Bay is 4-5.
Barth got the Bucs on the board with a 55-yard field goal kicked into a slight breeze on the first half's final play. Koenen was his usual outstanding self, averaging 44.2 yards (42.5 net average) on six punts and two inside the 20-yard line, giving him 18 through nine games.
Preston Parker averaged 17 yards on two punt returns while Sammie Stroughter returned three kickoffs for an average of 25.7, including a long of 33 yards.
Again, the kick coverage units were solid and limited Jacoby Jones to just 10 yards on four punt returns.