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September 6, 2012 @ 5:32 pm
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With New Look, New Weapons, The Pressure Is On For Freeman

Written by Dory
Dory LeBlanc


Beat Writer E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Josh Freeman has been given new weapons to succeed, and no one in the Bucs organization is under more pressure to do so than the fourth year quarterback. 
It seems there is a lot of pressure on a lot of people at One Buccaneer Place this year. There is pressure on Mark Dominik to bring in the best personnel for the new Bucs. There is pressure on first year head coach Greg Schiano to turn the team around from the 4-12 team of a year ago. There is pressure on the three starting rookies – a running back, linebacker, and safety to bolster two of the Bucs’ biggest downsides from last season – the run game and stopping the run. There is pressure on Gerald McCoy to stay healthy and for Adrian Clayborn to out-perform his outstanding rookie effort. Out of all of them, no one is under more pressure than Josh Freeman.

Freeman was drafted with the 17th overall pick in the 2009 draft and saw his first start later that year against Green Bay, a game in which the Bucs won thrusting Freeman into Buccaneer lore forever, becoming the youngest quarterback in franchise history to start and win his first game.  More importantly, the Bucs snapped an 11-game losing streak dating back to the previous season. Tampa Bay would win only two more games that season, but Freeman’s future was already cemented. 
The following year Freeman didn’t disappoint. For the first time since Brad Johnson in 2003, a Buccaneer quarterback started all 16 games in a season. In 2010 Freeman completed 61. 4 percent of his passes for 3,451 yards and 25 touchdowns to only six interceptions and added another 364 yards on the ground. Yes, Freeman was on his way to becoming one of the elite QBs in the league. That is, until the 2011 season began to unfold.

Marred by 10-straight losses to end the season, Freeman appeared to have taken a step backward last season. But, he threw for more yards (3,592) and was more accurate (62.8 percent). The biggest discrepancy was Freeman’s touchdown to interception ratio which made a dramatic decline to 16 TDs and 22 picks. The biggest complaint was then-offensive coordinator Greg Olson’s play-calling, which seemed to make Freeman look unsure of himself, as if his instincts were telling him what to do, but instead he followed the play called by the former OC.  His throws were erratic at times and his footwork was unbalanced. The 6-6 almost 260 pound QB who oozed confidence the first season and a half of his career seemed timid at the snap. Freeman was falling from grace, through not much fault of his own.

The organization was under pressure. They relieved some of that pressure when they fired Raheem Morris, their 35 year old head coach. They hired Greg Schiano shortly thereafter. Schiano relieved some of the pressure off of Freeman when he hired Eli Manning’s QB coach Mike Sullivan to be the Bucs offensive coordinator, and longtime offensive coach Ron Turner to be Tampa Bay’s quarterback coach.

Sullivan acknowledged that Freeman is a prideful young man, who has worked tirelessly in the offseason to be a better football player in more ways than one.

“His commitment has been outstanding in terms of you look at him,” Sullivan said, “what he’s (done) with his body getting in physical shape, he spent countless hours on his own without Coach Turner and myself and just studying film and trying to get himself immersed in our system and what we’re trying to, studying the opponent. His preparation has been outstanding this far getting ready for Carolina, so I think there is a resolve, there is a determination he has to put himself in a position to be the type of player he wants to be and lead us to the wins, to get to where we want to go.”

Committed is a word oft-used to describe Freeman around One Buc Place. One of Freeman’s newest weapons, wideout Vincent Jackson, also spoke about Freeman’s determination.

“He’s a leader.” Jackson said. “He’s driven. He’s motivated. He’s the first car – I’ve never come here in the morning without his car here first. He’s one of the last guys out of here at night. He comes in here on the days off, he’s in here talking to Ron (Turner) working on some reads and everything because it’s a new offense, it’s a new system and sometimes people worry about quarterbacks and the learning curve in a new system, but he’s done everything he could possibly do to get himself acclimated to be very efficient and effective in this offense.”

The pressure is on Freeman, but it is just as much placed on him by himself. Both Sullivan and Jackson are confident that Freeman is the quarterback that will lead the Bucs to a better record in 2012, and in the future.

“I have the utmost confidence in Josh.” Jackson said. “I appreciate him as a person, as a man that he is, as a professional I think he is a very talented player. He has everything a team, an offense needs.”

“Josh is improved in each and every phase.” Sullivan said. “He was better at the beginning of OTA’s than he was at the first minicamp, he was better at the end of training camp than he was at the beginning. And there’s been a progression we’ve seen in practice from a confidence level, an execution level, a leadership level we’re pleased with and preseason is always hard to gauge because us as well as other teams are working on various aspects of the game, so you really can’t measure it, but we’re pleased with where he is at and looking forward to what he does on Sunday.”

A highly sought after free agent, one of the reasons Jackson chose Tampa Bay was Freeman.

“That was one of the biggest things;” Jackson said, “the organization itself and then you go right into the personnel. And if it was going to fit for me, and absolutely it was. We’ve got some great receivers here, I knew they were going to bringing an offensive system that I could fit into and Josh is a great quarterback, he’s a great leader and he’s just hitting his stride of being a great player in this league for a long time. So it’s a great fit.”

Along with Jackson, the Bucs also added one of the most prolific tight ends in the league over the past decade, Dallas Clark. Between Jackson, Clark, third-year receiver Mike Williams, and rookie running back Doug Martin, Freeman will have quite the selection to throw to on Sundays.

Freeman has been given all the tools and weapons needed to be successful from added team mates to the quarterback-friendly coaching staff. There is no looking back for Freeman, he has to utilize his own skillset and capitalize on the opportunity facing him right now. Jackson is confident that Freeman will succeed.

“He can make everything throw,” Jackson said, “he’s athletic, he can move in the pocket, he’s mobile. He just has a presence in that pocket back there and a confidence that you know he’s going to hang in there and hold onto that ball as long as he can.

“I’m glad I decided to come here, because no matter where he’s at, the way he works, whatever people want to classify him as, I know he’s going to be great because he has the drive and he has all the abilities and tools to be great.”

Freeman has received a vote of confidence from Buccaneer teammates, coaches, and front office; now it’s up to Freeman to ease the pressure and just play football. 
Last modified on Sunday, 09 September 2012 14:39

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  • avatar

    Absolutely right Horse. This isn't baseball where almost everything rides on the guy on the mound. I recall games where Josh took the team to a lead only to have the defense allow the opponent to take the kick-off and drive the field. There was plenty of blame to be distributed last year and Josh certainly deserves some. But the most points given up in one season doesn't fall on the young QB.
  • avatar

    The pressure is not on Freeman; it is equally on the offense to score big and the defense to stop the run and put pressure on the quarterback.
  • avatar

    Horse - it's okay. The greats want the pressure on them. It's up to him to take this offense to where it can be... a top 10 offense. Without him playing smart, accurate football it won't happen. It's okay... even if you don't want the pressure to be on him, IT IS!
  • avatar

    Agreed. Hes much better when he plays instinctual. He was better when he didnt know a thing, now you can see it on his face that his brain is on overload. Doesnt seem to have the confidence in his release that he showed at one point either. Just looks overwhelmed. I hope that was just preseason and that the light flips on soon. Or maybe flips off. Play lights out Josh!! Please!? I believe you have the potential just let it go bud!
  • avatar

    Quality story, Dory.A rookie yourself,we continue to expect great things from you!
  • avatar

    Well the one thing the coaches have not been able to cure is him holding the ball down before throwing it. The best QBs hold it up by their chins. I helps with a quicker release and less chance of a DLineman coming behind him and swiping the ball out. He needs to fix that. There is no reason he should not do better this season with the additions we have on this offense. With a back like Martin maybe now we can throw some good screens and even draw plays.
  • avatar

    That higher position will also make him more accurate. Less arm strength (which he has plenty of) but much more accurate. Like trying to shoot a rifle from your hip or throwing a dart.
  • avatar

    He needs to get the ball out quicker, and run judiciously when the opportunity is there, then he will be a really good quarterback. Otherwise, he will fall into last years patterns, and it will not be a good thing.
  • avatar

    roll out roll out roll out less reading, more athletic instinctual plays, josh has always been a deer in the head lights and still is , cut the field in half and utilize his physical talent ; plays will then be made. He will eventually get it, but it is still way off. Gentle Ben makes most of his plays this way, if he was a pockett only passer his first four years , he may not be a starter in the NFL right now!
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