Some people will say Josh Freeman’s bad shoulder, bum thumb or even the weather played a part in his performance today. But his numbers at Jacksonville (16 of 30 for 180 yards and two interceptions) look no different than a majority of his starts this season. Poor decisions and poor mechanics doomed Freeman today and several other games this season.
Freeman has talent. Ten wins last season with a 24-6 TD-to-interception ratio is a fact regardless of the weakness of a schedule. So how is it this season Freeman’s play has dropped like an early-2000's dot-com stock? These are questions for someone much smarter than me but with the regression may come a major overhaul at One Buccaneer Place and a player who was considered untouchable in the starting lineup may find himself holding a clipboard depending on if a coaching/management change comes. At this point, can you say anyone’s job is safe?
LeGarrette Blount’s propensity to fumble began at Tennessee and continued today with two more today at Jacksonville. No one will ever argue with Blount’s desire and determination to get an extra yard but ball security must be a top priority. From Pop Warner to the NFL more fumbles are created with runners or receivers battling for the extra yard. When a player gets stood up you can bet another is looking to pop the ball out, especially at the NFL level.
Blount’s miscues weren’t the only ones, but are something that just can’t happen on a regular basis. For the game Blount managed 74 yards on 18 carries (4.1 yard average) and one touchdown. A nice day by most standards, minus the turnover.
Kregg Lumpkin must do something in practice every day that impresses the coaching staff enough to trust him as the backup and third-down tailback, but it has yet to translate to very much success on the field. Lumpkin was part of the problem on the second-quarter sack and fumble-turned-touchdown, which further cemented the momentum the Jaguars took to the locker room and never relinquished.
After impressing the last few games with the ability to get open against man and zone coverages, the Bucs wideouts were embarrassed by a group of backup defensive backs Sunday on a chilly wet field in Jacksonville.
Mike Williams’ second half of the season comeback stalled out Sunday as the team’s leading receiver managed just three receptions for 35 yards against the depleted secondary of Jacksonville.
Arrelious Benn left the game with a concussion and only contributed one reception for seven yards and the tandem of Preston Parker and Dezmon Briscoe combined for six catches for 65 yards.
They say receivers have an advantage in bad weather and poor footing but someone forgot to tell that to Tampa Bay’s receivers. It is hard to tell if more of the blame falls on the receivers or on Josh Freeman for the poor passing display. Regardless, a 250-yard passing day should have been a given.
I’ve defended Kellen Winslow all season, but on a scramble that appeared to be a sack he totally gave up on the play and Freeman ended up being called for intentional grounding. It was a frustrating day for all the players but Raheem Morris deserves a much better effort from a veteran player that should be a leader.
Winslow had an average day at best catching two passes for 38 yards including a Bucs’ game-long of 28 yards on fourth-and-one in the first half.
Rookie Luke Stocker again struggled, dropping his only potential catch and missing a key block that caused LeGarrette Blount to be stuffed behind the line of scrimmage.
Another up and down game for this unit as run blocking was mostly decent and pass protection was adequate at times.
LT Donald Penn easily had his worse game of the season, taking abuse all afternoon from the Jags Jeremy Mincey and appearing to actually be the one who knocked the ball from Freeman’s hand that resulted in a touchdown late in the first half.
For the game, the Buccaneers averaged over 4.0 yards per carry, but Freeman was harassed into mistakes and poor throws and was sacked three times on the afternoon.
The play of the defensive line was a big part of keeping Jones-Drew under 100 yards rushing and only a 3.1 per carry average. Da’Quan Bowers, Michael Bennett, Adrian Clayborn and Brian Price were all credited with a tackle for loss and Albert Haynesworth was a beast at times, spending a lot of the game in the Jags backfield. He drew double teams and caused at least two holding penalties with his penetration.
The negative part of the play of this unit was only collecting one sack of Gabbert despite 33 pass attempts. Close several times, but no cigar, was the theme for the Buccaneers defensive line Sunday.
Statistically no one stood out and there were a fair number of missed tackles, but Maurice Jones-Drew is no ordinary back. Combining with the defensive line to limit him to a 3.1-yard average, the linebackers showed improvement. Of course considering their play for the better part this season, that isn’t too much of an accomplishment.
Quincy Black had one of his better games of the season by recording six tackles, including two for loss. Mason Foster was given a few welcome-to-the-NFL licks from Jones-Drew, but to his credit he didn’t seem to back down.
On a Jones-Drew fourth-quarter touchdown, Geno Hayes was unable to keep the Jags star out of the end zone and the picture of him lying prone on the turf then dropping his head in frustration pretty much summed up the season the former FSU star has had.
Of all the units I’m not sure there is one that will need more attention than this one in the offseason. Sean Jones was beaten badly in the second quarter by Mercedes Lewis and had a couple missed tackles. Even Tanard Jackson didn’t play up to his normal level and has struggled with tackling, beginning with the Tennessee game.
Elbert Mack, Ronde Barber and E.J. Biggers all played soft coverage for the most part Sunday and it was extremely evident on the Jaguars last touchdown of the first half when Gabbert started to get in his rhythm. To me it looked almost as if the defensive backfield was playing a semi-prevent. That seems crazy based on the average-at-best cast of receivers that the Jaguars boast.
What was once the best weapon the Buccaneers could claim, Michael Koenen has had an underwhelming second half of the season after starting the year off as a potential Pro Bowler. On the afternoon, Koenen averaged just 37.8 yards per punt with a net of 32.8. The weather and wind didn’t help matters but Jacksonville averaged over 41 punting in the same conditions.
But where special teams really hurt Tampa Bay was two fumbles by Preston Parker, one of which was returned for a touchdown to open the Jaguars' scoring. But maybe more importantly lost was the momentum of a 14-0 lead. The Buccaneers never recovered as Jacksonville reeled of 41 straight points and sent Tampa Bay to an embarrassing loss.