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June 21, 2013 @ 8:16 am
Current rating: 5.00 Stars/2 Votes

SR's Fab 5 - 6-21

Written by Scott
Reynolds
Scott Reynolds

Scott
Reynolds

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Do the Bucs actually care about QB Josh Freeman's completion percentage? How is John McNulty helping Freeman and the team's QBs? Does rookie QB Mike Glennon have what it takes to be successful in the NFL? What type of effect is Pro Bowl FS Dashon Goldson having on the team? Get the answers plus more insight and inside scoop on the Buccaneers in this week's edition of SR's Fab 5.
SR's Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, Pewter Report publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place:

FAB 1. Understand one thing about Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman. He doesn’t care about stats. He only cares about winning, which is something he has not done enough of yet in Tampa Bay.

Freeman knows it, evidenced by his 24-32 record in his 56 career starts, and the team knows it, which is why he has yet to receive a contract extension from general manager Mark Dominik.

Sure, Freeman is proud is of the fact that he set franchise single season records last year for touchdown passes (27), passing yards (4,065) and total yards (4,204), but he would have traded in a few hundred yards and some touchdowns for more wins and a playoff berth in 2012.

Some have grumbled about Freeman’s completion percentage dropping from a career-high 62.8 percent in 2011 to a career-low 54.8 percent in 2012. As much as it may pain folks to hear it, a high completion percentage is not overly important to offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan and new Buccaneers quarterbacks coach John McNulty.

“I think you look at the yards, the yards per completion and the points,” McNulty said. “It’s just like some of these guys coming out of college and they tell you before you evaluate, ‘This guy is 90 percent’ but [some of those throws] are like handoffs. I do think to me the payoff is more than the dink and dunk. I like that better. I always have. I think Mike does. I think Josh likes it better – to throw the ball down the field."

In Freeman’s first three years in the league he had 13 pass plays of 40 yards or more. Of those 13 deep passes, six covered 50 yards or more.

Last season, in the first year of Sullivan’s vertical offense, which takes more shots downfield, Freeman hit nine pass plays of 40 yards or more, with seven throws covering at least 50 yards. That’s more deep passes in one year Freeman had in his first three seasons.

Freeman also established a new career-long pass, which was a 95-yard strike to Pro Bowl wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who had a team-high 24 receptions of 20 yards or more while hauling in a career-high 72 catches for 1,384 yards and eight touchdowns. Wide receiver Mike Williams, who finished with 996 yards and a team-high nine touchdowns on 63 receptions, was second on the team with a career-high 17 catches of 20 yards or more in 2012.

“I think with the guys we have, if you just put it in the area they will usually go up and get it for you,” McNulty said. “[Long passes] count more than the quick one. Now we have a guy that you can throw a quick one to in Doug [Martin], and he can do a lot for you, too.”

Most NFL offenses do not want to face an eight-man defensive front because they want to be able to run the ball. Having a Pro Bowl running back in Martin, who rushed for a Tampa Bay rookie record 1,454 yards and a franchise record 11 rushing touchdowns in 2012, will cause defenses to want to stack the line of scrimmage with a safety in the box to try to stop the run. The Bucs actually invite those situations.

All that will do is allow either Jackson or Williams to get in a one-on-one matchup and create an opportunity to Freeman to make a big pass play downfield. And when that causes defenses to recoil, drop two safeties and play Cover 2 zone to prevent a big pass play, Martin has the chance to run wild against a seven-man front.

Thanks to an incredibly talented offensive line, the Bucs have a very balanced offense that allows the team to run or pass the ball with equal effectiveness. Averaging 363.8 yards per game, Tampa Bay’s offense ranked ninth in the NFL last year. The Bucs passing game ranked 10th in the league (248.9 yards per game), while the running game (114.8 yards per game) ranked 15th.

Martin ended up as the Tampa Bay’s third-leading receiver in 2012 with 49 passes for 472 yards (9.6 avg.) and one touchdown, which came on a 64-yard screen pass at Minnesota. The Bucs plan to use his run-after-catch ability even more as a receiver for Freeman this year.

While the dump-offs to Martin will undoubtedly boost Freeman’s completion percentage, don’t expect Sullivan or McNulty to do any cartwheels. There will still be a steady diet of low-percentage deep passes to the Bucs receiving corps that will result in some incompletions. But when Freeman hits on those downfield throws they will result in 50-yard plays and possibly long touchdowns.

“You aren’t going to see 80 percent completion [from Freeman], but you are going to see a lot of yards and a lot of points,” McNulty said.

More yards and more points should equal more wins for Freeman and the Bucs in 2013.

FAB 2. One of the things that helped Josh Freeman set numerous team records last year was a mental checklist that Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback used at the line of scrimmage. Instead of just lining up under center and scanning the secondary to see where the safeties were playing and identifying the Mike (middle linebacker), former quarterbacks coach Ron Turner had Freeman first identify the defensive front and try to recognize if the line was going to stunt or if the linebackers were going to blitz.

It might not matter where the safeties are playing if the three technique defensive tackle is about to blow up the blocking scheme and get to Freeman in two seconds before he has time to release the ball. So identifying the fronts and then scanning the secondary became part of Freeman’s pre-snap ritual.

It’s a practice that was talked about to a degree under former offensive coordinator Greg Olson, but not really implemented until Turner’s arrival. Freeman is continuing the practice under McNulty and is becoming more adept at calling the right adjustments at the line of scrimmage now that he has a full year in Mike Sullivan’s playbook.

“That takes reps, but there really aren’t enough reps,” McNulty said. “It happened last year for him in games, and he’s gone back and we’ve watched these games over and over again. Whether it’s blitz calls, whether it is ID’ing [the front] or knowing that he should have set his feet to the inside, we’re just trying to simulate those reps as much as possible to make him comfortable doing what he’s doing.”

Although Turner has moved on to become the head coach at Florida International University, Freeman has quickly bonded with McNulty and the two already have a strong relationship. One of the things that McNulty and Sullivan are trying to accomplish is creating a playbook based on what Freeman does best in the passing game and what he is most comfortable with now that he has had a year in the system.

“I think the knowledge part of it is good, and the comfort part of it working with him where he says, ‘Hey, this doesn’t make sense to me,’ or ‘Can we do this or that?’” McNulty said. “Mike has been great at saying, ‘Okay, if that’s what [Josh] wants to do, we’ll try to bend it that way.’ I think it’s just more of a comfort in the system because he has the physical ability to do it. I’m not trying to teach a guy how to throw a ball. I try to stay away from altering a guy’s mechanics and trying to get him to get comfortable with a system.

“He’s had a number of different systems and he’s had a number of different things asked of him. I’m sure other guys have said, ‘If you throw it like this,’ or ‘If you throw it like that.’ What I’m trying to help him with is the system. I’ve spent five years in this system. I ran a lot of this same system when I was at Rutgers. We were similar in some of it when I was in Arizona. I have seen guys struggle with it, whether it was Mark Brunell [in Jacksonville] and Jay Fiedler came in and played for him. Jonathan Quinn was a young guy we drafted up there. I know Eli [Manning] struggled. I used to go up to the Giants camp. I’ve seen what some guys have struggled with and I understand the system well enough to be able to iron them through all of the pitfalls and make them feel confident in it.”

McNulty stressed the fact that Freeman doesn’t need to alter his mechanics much, and is not trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to his throwing motion. All he’s trying to do is to work on the mental part of the game and improve his decision-making at the line of scrimmage and after the snap.

“I’m just trying to make him a little faster,” McNulty said. “Just know where you are going with the ball and get your feet where you are going with the ball. If he’s covered get to the next guy faster. Get to the last guy faster – which is usually the back four or five yards deep. That’s just being comfortable with the play.”

McNulty recognizes Freeman’s incredible talent and physical attributes and believes he is going to have a great season for Tampa Bay.

“Obviously if he’s certain of where he’s going with the ball and he sets his feet where he’s going with the ball he can throw it as well as anyone in the league,” McNulty said.

FAB 3. John McNulty is not only charged with the responsibility of preparing Josh Freeman ready for an important season, which also happens to be a contract year for the starting quarterback, but Tampa Bay’s new QBs coach also has to prepare rookie Mike Glennon to be ready in case Freeman goes down with an injury. McNulty said that because the team is in Year Two of Mike Sullivan’s offense it won’t take as long for a smart player like Glennon to catch up.

“We have a great system here as far as spending time and getting the rookies ready,” McNulty said. “That goes for every position. Mike and I have started from scratch and then he got thrown in with the vets. The good thing is it’s not Year One. It’s Year Two and we kind of went back to Ground Zero with Josh and the other quarterbacks and started over again. [Mike] probably got here at the right time. Sometimes you get thrown into it with a guy that has been here for five years and you are talking a totally different language.”

Glennon, who was the ninth-rated passer in FBS college football last year in terms of yards with 4,031, completed just 58.5 percent of his throws (330-of-564 passes), but is a tall quarterback like Freeman with the ability to throw the ball deep. He’s a perfect fit for Sullivan’s offense in terms of physical makeup.

“He’s got a big arm, he’s a very intelligent guy, he’s a football guy and he’s a grinder,” McNulty said. “This is all it is for him. His brother was a starter at Virginia Tech. This is his life.”

After sitting behind Russell Wilson for two years, Glennon threw for 31 touchdowns in back-to-back seasons in 2011 and 2012. While he tossed 62 touchdowns in his two years as a starter, Glennon had 29 interceptions, including 17 as a senior when the Wolfpack finished 7-6. The Bucs’ third-round pick had little to work with offensively as North Carolina State did not have a 1,000-yard rusher or receiver last year, and the offensive line did not do a great job in pass protection.

Glennon is not the most mobile quarterback, but was sacked more often than he should have been in 2012 due to sub-par blocking from the offensive line. While he needs to work on his movement in the pocket, Glennon has better escapability than he gets credit for, according to McNulty.

“It’s interesting because he moves around the pocket well enough that I think it will surprise some people for a guy that big,” McNulty said. “To be honest with you, I think he’s just growing into his frame. He grew in college. I think he can tell you better, but he grew like two and half inches in college. I think his frame is still catching up to that. He was under a lot of pressure at N.C. State. Whether that will translate into a game, I guess we’ll find out. He certainly has the signs of a guy that can handle the position.”

McNulty has been very impressed with both the physical and mental makeup of Glennon, who is working with the second team offense and has a legitimate chance to be Freeman’s backup this season.

“He has a big enough arm and he’s a very intelligent player, but it’s just understanding that there’s a lot of things that he’ll be asked to do at this level that he wasn’t asked to do in college, whether it’s protections, being in coverage or checking plays.” McNulty said. “The good thing is that he played in a sophisticated offense in college, more sophisticated than a lot of these guys that are coming out have played in.”

Although the Bucs are very high on Glennon’s potential, the team will likely keep three quarterbacks, including veteran Dan Orlovsky, who was the backup last year, on the roster in 2013 after keeping just two on the team last year. With Tampa Bay harboring legitimate playoff aspirations, the team is not quite prepared to turn the offense over to a rookie if Freeman were to go down. But if Glennon can accelerate his learning curve in August and shine in the preseason, the Bucs may change their mind.

FAB 4. One of the newcomers to Tampa Bay that is drawing rave reviews at One Buccaneer Place is Pro Bowl free safety Dashon Goldson, who is making more of an impact in the classroom rather than the football field.

Why? Goldson is one of the most physical safeties in the NFL, and the OTAs (organized team activities) and mini-camps in the offseason are non-padded and non-contact. In fact, Goldson won’t be able to really showcase his physicality against receivers that go across the middle until Sundays starting in September.

“Turn on the film and I think the playmaking speaks for itself,” Bucs safeties coach Jeff Hafley said. “He’s got everything you need from a safety. He’s tough, he’s physical, and he’s a great tackler. You’ve seen the big hits. We’ve all seen the big hits, but the biggest thing I didn’t know about him – but I do now is – that he is a smart football player.

“He’s extremely knowledgeable and he’s a leader. He loves the game of football, and he has really shown his leadership already, which to me, is very impressive. I’m excited to be around him.”

Bucs cornerback Danny Gorrer has already seen Goldson’s impact – even though the player known as “The Hawk” has yet to deliver one of his trademark blows.

“Dashon brings a lot to the table with leadership and the way he communicates in the classroom and on the field,” Gorrer said. “He can really bring it. We know that, and he has a switch that he can turn on and off. He’s the leader that we’ve been missing. Now we’ve got him and I’m glad he’s on our team. I’m glad that another guy that we can build a relationship with and I can go to work with.”

Great players not only make great plays, but they also elevate the play of the players that surround them. That was one of the reasons why the Bucs brought Goldson in during free agency. Tampa Bay wants to accelerate the learning curve of strong safety Mark Barron, the seventh overall pick in last year’s draft.

Barron had a good rookie season with 88 tackles, one interception and one forced fumble to go along with 10 pass breakups, including one against Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez on fourth down in the fourth quarter to seal Tampa Bay’s 22-17 season-ending victory. The Bucs are expecting Barron to have an even more productive year lining up next to Goldson, who at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds is built nearly identical to the former Crimson Tide star.


“That’s another guy that is going to do big things this year,” Gorrer said. “You can tell he’s even upping his game just because he’s on the other side of Dashon Goldson, a Pro Bowl and an All-Pro safety. That’s bringing the best out of Mark Barron. You see that every day in practice the way he’s flying around. He’s starting to look exactly like Dashon Goldson. He’s in for a big year. I can’t wait to see it.”

FAB 5. Here are a few things to hold you over until the next edition of SR’s Fab 5:

• Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman is one of the most humble NFL athletes you’ll ever meet, especially at the quarterback position. One of the things he showed me at his Josh Freeman ProCamps football camp this week at Wesley Chapel High School was his F.A.M.I.L.Y. bracelet he and his teammates received from Bucs head coach Greg Schiano.

The acronym F.A.M.I.L.Y. stands for “forget about me, I love you.” Freeman said the biggest part of the team concept is “forget about me” and getting rid of any selfish thoughts. That puts the mind’s emphasis on the team rather than the individual. Then when a player is working with and for his teammates, that’s where the “I love you” part comes in. Freeman said he has never been on a team that is so tight knit before at any level, including his first three years in Tampa Bay. The level of team unity is at an all-time high at One Buccaneer Place since Schiano's arrival.

• Although rookie Mike Glennon poses no immediate threat to starting quarterback Josh Freeman this season, Bucs quarterbacks coach John McNulty likes the fact that there is increased competition at the position. However, he points out that Freeman didn’t need any extra push as he is in a contract year and hungry to make the playoffs.

“I don’t think it ever hurts,” McNulty said. “Competition always helps everybody. I think in Josh’s mind from the day I got hired everything has been very positive and very excited. His second opportunity in this system and his second opportunity to run the team, he felt very good about what he was going to do. I think he was already very motivated.”

• Buccaneers Pro Bowl wide receiver Vincent Jackson helped coach the kids at the Josh Freeman ProCamps football camp at Wesley Chapel High School this past week. Both he and Freeman shared the notion that the Bucs are on the verge of becoming one of the elite NFL teams. Jackson believes

• Tampa Bay Pro Bowl wide receiver Vincent Jackson believes the team's ninth-ranked offense is only going to be better in 2013 after a record-setting campaign last year in which the unit set team records with over 5,800 yards of total offense, while averaging 24.3 points per game.

“I feel like it has already been elite,” Jackson said. “I think we’ve shown that we can be very explosive, and there’s still room for improvement. I’m very excited about it.”

When asked what the return to health of Pro Bowl guards Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks means to the Bucs as they head towards training camp, Jackson indicated the team's depth actually improved last year during their absence and that Tampa Bay is a better team in 2013 as a result.

“We want to get all of our guys healthy, but I think our offense is solid,” Jackson said. “We had some good guys step up last year from a back up position, so we’re not going to be concerned about who’s lining up out there. We expect everybody we put on the field to do their job.”

• And finally, PewterReport.com has a couple of exciting new partnerships for 2013 and beyond to announce in the coming weeks – stay tuned!

Last modified on Friday, 21 June 2013 10:52
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COMMENTS

  • avatar


    macabee, I'm sorry, but you're not making any sense, lol. The article you just linked proves MY point, not yours - that the sample size of QBs this tall is too incredibly small to mean ANYTHING. The reality that there have only been FIVE QBs 6'6" to meet the criteria the author sets just demonstrates how few 6'6" QBs there are....which, again, just proves my point. Correlation does not equal causation. You're essentially positing that if a 6'5" QB unexpectedly grows an inch over one random offseason, we should now be worried about his ability to be effective. Do you not hear how ridiculous that argument is? I mean, I can point to a lot of random facts and draw erroneous conclusions from them. I'll give you a few. The career success rate for pitchers who throw a 110 MPH fastball is very low. Therefore, if a guy throws 110, we should not look kindly on his chances of being successful. Chris Bosh has the highest field goal percentage in the last minute of close regular season games over the last 5 years. Therefore, he is the most clutch player in the NBA. 100% of RBs who measure 6'1", 230 pounds and run a 40 yard dash in 4.12 seconds have had early ends to their careers as a result of life-altering hip surgery. Therefore, we should have no interest in the next Bo Jackson because, clearly, players of that size and speed are injury prone. Do you see the problem with your logic? It leads us to ridiculous, baseless conclusions. The biggest reason that there hasn't been much success for 6'7" QBs is that NOT MANY QUARTERBACKS, OR JUST PEOPLE FOR THAT MATTER, ARE THAT FREAKING TALL.
  • avatar


    toofamiliar17, Recommended reading!http://www.coldhardfootballfacts.com/content/tall-task-does-height-matter-for-nfl-quarterbacks/22067/
  • avatar


    toofamiliar17, my point still stands and my question is yet unanswered. For the record Glennon is 6'7'. This is not a manufactured issue. Google tall QBs and you will find a huge number of analyses written on how tall is too tall in the NFL. Flacco is the one and only rare exception over 6'5', hence my exemption. I wish Glennon all the success in the NFL especially if it benefits the Bucs. However if he is successful, as I said, he will make NFL history!
  • avatar


    My completely useless and totally inconsequential predictions: Josh finishes the year with around 4,450 passing yards, 33 TDs, 13 INTs, 58% completion percentage. Bucs go 11-5, finishing as the 3 seed and losing in the conference championship. I see us splitting with ATL and NO and sweeping CAR. On the upset side, I think we steal one from a NE team that will def be good enough to win its division at 11-5 but not nearly good enough to make real noise in the playoffs. I know some of these predictions are a standard deviation or two from the mean that most models I would trust might give us, but what's the point of predictions that are straight chalk? I honestly think we have the talent and coaching in place to make all of these things come to pass.
  • avatar


    owlykat - hmm,it has never occurred to me that Freeman isn't smart. In fact i think he sometimes comes off as too cerebral. I'm curious if anyone else carries an opinion of Josh that his intelligence is less than par. That would be news to me with Vick, Kapernick, and Rivers in the mix. Certainly Josh's MENSA card would hold up against those guys. Does anyone else think Josh is dumb and if so, why? Scott, as usual, very fun article. Thanks.
  • avatar


    Owlykat, history is important when talking about success in the NFL. Name a QB over 6'6" that has been a success in the history of the NFL? That question may be difficult so try an easier one. Take out Flacco last year, and name a QB over 6'5" that has been a success in the NFL ever? Glennon will make NFL history if he is a success in the NFL.
  • avatar


    macabee, there are so many problems with this post, lol...first, you can't pose a question like that then say, "Take out the SB winning/SBMVP QB from last year for no real reason. Just take him out - he doesn't count." Also, the reality that there hasn't ever been a successful 6'6" QB might have something to do with the fact that not very many people are that freaking tall. The implication that being 6'6" tall could somehow reduce Glennon's chances of being successful in and of itself is a ridiculous assertion that has no base in logic.
  • avatar


    owlykat: Being from the Steel City myself, don't believe the myth that Terry Bradshaw was the southern country bumpkin the media in Pittsburgh created with his Lil' Abner getup. He didn't get his sweet gig on TV by being a dumba$$. It's an act. Josh Freeman isn't stupid either. Being bolder and louder doesn't make one smarter.
  • avatar


    Surelly five Olinemen and four Dlinemen can stay healthy the duration of the year, right?
  • avatar


    Ya get the sense that Josh is going to have a great year.
  • avatar


    ya know there'll be injuries, but hopefully 1)less total i.r's, and hopefully our injured players get back on the field quickly.
  • avatar

    Great article again, Scott! - All the coaches & insights & comfortability & system-fits in the world is great & all, and believe me, I know it's a must, BUT... it allll comes down to Josh Freeman focusing, reading quickly & correctly, reacting quickly, and EXECUTING!! 95% of that is preparation & repetition. He'll be fine. big yardage numbers. He'll be good not great. He won't be the reason if we have a losing season, which I dont think we will - I'm REALLY excited bout our safeties. They have a chance to be the best tandem in NFL....and really, if Banks can develop quickly by end of season, & Revis regains his Pro Bowl form, the secondary as a whole, will easily be the best unit collectively, in whole NFL. believe that!!! - as far as Josh's humbleness, and you may not like this or agree but, I think its a defensive mechanism to hide his lack of true confidence. I think he believes in himself but not ultimately. not enough to be great. I want my qb to have a swagger, moxy, confidence spewing, swag. Doesnt have to be loud & proud, can be quiet confidence, but supremely confident. borderline overconfident. He doesnt have that. It will ALWAYS hold him back from being great. I wish it weren't true & I hope I'm wrong
  • avatar


    Great insights, Scott! I like Freeman's new QB coach. The mental part of the game is exactly what Freeman needed help on. He has all the physical tools. He will have a better Offensive Team around him this year too. So I am excited to see how this year turns out! Really, if you analyze the games from last year, and then imagine how many of those games we would have won with the defensive backfield we have this year, you will see we should have made the playoffs last year; so any improvement in Freeman this year will just be gravy. With Glennon, I think the work will be on the mechanics of his game, because he has the mental side of it down already. I just wish Freeman had Glennon's smarts. But remember the Pittsburg Steelers won many Super Bowls with a QB who was no mental giant.
  • avatar

    I don't care who is out in Ne just as long as Brady plays he is unbelievable at home with posting the best home record the past 10 yrs so calm down Bucs Fans about going into Ne and putting up a "W" like its that easy. Anyhoo, I have faith in Freeman at qb and believe he will have a good yr and get his extension, we will need some time to build chemistry and might be another yr away from doing some damage to reach the post season but at least we are headed in the right direction. My prediction for Freeman stats are as follows 29 td's 16 int's 4,100 yds 58% completion and the Bucs will have 8-9 wins there is always that one swing game that will make the difference in the record either way.
  • avatar


    On paper we look great. Back up at QB and RB are my concerns and I am betting that the Coach will improve that situation in the next two months. Good article Scott.
  • avatar

    We're ok @ RB depth. we got a bunch of Doug Martin/Ray Rice clones. short fire hydrants that get lost behind our AWESOME offensive line.
  • avatar

    We already know Goldson and Revis can ball. I think we can all agree as long as they stay healthy, our defense is primed for a huge year. But the biggest question is and will stay with Freeman. Hope and pray, hope and pray...
  • avatar


    Surferdudes, I agree that on paper we should be able to start the season 3-0. It reminds me that I thought the same thing back in 2010 when we opened the season against the Delhomme led Browns, the overrated Panthers and a Roethleisbergerless Steelers team. Things were going well at 2-0 until Tanard Jackson gets busted for weed and gets suspended. I don't think anyone on this team will be suspended, but we sure have a long history of ill-timed injuries. I'm merely suggesting that we add a statement like "barring injury" to your 3-0 claim.
  • avatar


    Start the season against a Jet team we should beat, N.O. at home, then on to N.E.. With Gronk out, Hernandez going to jail, and Welker gone. What looked like a possible 1 3 start, could turn into a 3 0 start.
  • avatar


    I like the approach to developing Glennon. There is a lot of hype on the Bucs this year and Dom has given the tools for a very good team. It is up to the coaching staff now and I like what I am hearing. Go Bucs!
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