Tampa Bay QB Josh Freeman is trying to lead the Buccaneers to an improved showing in 2010. Buccaneers offensive coordinator Greg Olson said he wants Freeman to improve his accuracy and decision-making, while head coach Raheem Morris said that Freeman is showing improvement.
A year after being a rookie quarterback that was not taking many reps behind veterans, Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman is fully entrenched as the starting quarterback and is taking the vast majority of reps in practice. Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris said that Freeman has made a lot of strides with improving his knowledge of the game.
"You know Josh has been here this whole offseason," said Morris. "It's really been about the offseason progression for Josh and how much he did in the pick-ups and I don't know if you guys noticed how much more he does now as a quarterback than he did even last year when he had to play. Really, he's getting to the point where he just corrects them. You know, so to speak, sometimes when you have a misconception or a deceived different picture. So he was able to go out there and do those things that was very impressive when he was out there in his team-blitz period. Take a ball to routes and understand what he had to do, where he had to go to. That's what you're looking for in a quarterback right now. As he goes along, he sees the better plays, the better throws and he threw a couple daggers at us today. He makes it easy to go to the offensive side and cheering for Josh and then when we make a play I can go to the other side and cheer for the defense. So right now I'm cheating a little bit, but it's fun."
Freeman has been a mainstay at One Buc Place throughout the offseason. Not only has the 6-foot-6, 250-pound quarterback gotten in better shape, he's been studying defenses across the league and mastering the offense's playbook.
"We spent a lot of time, we were out there, we were out of the field, we were in the weight room, we were in the film room. Putting in about five hours a day, five days a week," said Freeman. "Whether it's weights, whether it's running, whether it's out on the field throwing – it's definitely paying off and you can see it with all of the quarterbacks."
Morris said that Freeman's work ethic has rubbed off on his teammates, and the second-year quarterback has been getting his teammates to increase their attendance this offseason.
"Josh loves football and Josh loves his team. He loves his teammates and he loves to be around here – he loves to be here period," said Morris. "He's just one of those guys that's the kind of charisma and juice he brings to the building. He's twenty-whatever years old and he's excited to be here. He loves football and he wants to make sure everyone around him loves football. So, he calls you, and he talks about being in the building. You know that's got to make you feel like, ‘Man, I gotta get in there.'"
In 2009, Freeman started nine games and appeared in 10 games total. He completed 54.5 percent of his passes for 1,855 yards with 10 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. Freeman also had 10 fumbles, but recovered eight of them. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson would like to see Freeman improve on two of those aspects in particular.
"Decision-making and accuracy," said Olson. "They both are tied hand-in-hand, really. I think when he's making better decisions and hitting his check downs his completion percentage is going to go up. The decision making and accuracy are the two areas we expect to see him improve upon."
Freeman, the Buccaneers' first-round pick out of Kansas State in 2009, said that he feels that he is improving as a passer.
"Well yeah, I mean the passing game is all dictated on timing, on the perfect windows," said Freeman. "I really just see the timing that we've developed with the guys in the offseason and some of the young guys stepping in. I hit Mike [Williams] on a post. I can take a quick five and he takes a quick seven and he breaks a skinny post. I mean I throw it before he even gets to the seventh step. Timing was perfect, it hit him right in the chest. And you see that those young guys are real in the work. They're watching the other guys that have been in the league for a while and they're trying to figure things out. It's pretty exciting as a quarterback to see guys going into it and working so hard."
After losing Antonio Bryant in free agency, the Buccaneers got some weapons for Freeman to work with. Tampa Bay traded for veteran wideout Reggie Brown from the Philadelphia Eagles, and drafted two wide receivers in the 2010 NFL Draft. Syracuse wide receiver Mike Williams was selected in the fourth round, and Illinois wide receiver Arrelious Benn was taken in the second round. Freeman said he is going to put in some extra time with the rookies to bring them up to speed.
"I'm just telling them to work," said Freeman. "You know they just got in here last night, so today I tell them if they run a route not to your liking, then you can tell them exactly how you want them to run. I'm going to get them together and run by the hotel tonight and kind of go over the script for tomorrow and try to get them ready so they can step in and look good. But yeah, I mean it's just encouragement. I think that as young guys you need encouragement like have confidence in them. I remember last year Byron [Leftwich] had confidence in me and then you got all the coaches. That did a lot for my own personal confidence.
"The [rookies] definitely look good. Mike is like a big, big-play guy. He's got a lot of speed and I think he can stretch it pretty good vertically. And then you look at [Arrelious], he can work the middle, he can recognize his passing window and he knows how to run the zone. I mean he's a big, physical guy – breaking tackles, getting yards after the catch."
Benn, Williams and Freeman will be back on the field on Tuesday and Wednesday as the Buccaneers finish their OTA workouts for the month of May. The team will hold many OTAs and a mandatory mini-camp in June.
Kelli Haemmelmann contributed to this report.
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