Despite setting a number of franchise records last year, Josh Freeman is under the gun in 2013, which is a contract year for the Bucs QB. And despite some might who have lost confidence that Freeman can become a playoff quarterback, Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan is clearly in Freeman's corner.
Perhaps no one single position in all of professional sports attracts more scrutiny than an NFL quarterback does.
For Tampa Bay starter Josh Freeman the spotlight will be shining even brighter than most, as the former first-round pick in 2009 enters the 2013 campaign without a contract beyond the upcoming season. If the Buccaneers make the playoffs Freeman will likely get a hefty raise, if not, most likely, Freeman will be wearing a different team’s uniform in 2014.
Last year, Freeman set the Bucs' all-time record for yards passing (4,065
yards), touchdown passes (27) and total offense (4,204 yards). Despite
setting franchise marks in a number of categories, Freeman is still
under the gun with many around the league, including a segment of Bucs
fans that aren't believers. Yet second-year offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan is not wavering in his
confidence for Freeman.
“Josh Freeman is our quarterback, and he's a heck of a player,” Sullivan said. “While there were some
disappointments at times last year, whether it was a decision on a ball
that was intercepted or just some inconsistencies – you can’t take away
the numbers that he put up – the franchise records offensively. I think
he is so much more comfortable with what we are doing right now having
had that experience.”
And while the questions will remain until Freeman fully proves himself capable of becoming a playoff quarterback, Sullivan thinks he will make the necessary strides in his second year in Tampa Bay’s offensive system.
“[There] has been a lot of improvement from Josh, and really all the offensive players the second year in the system,” Sullivan said. “This time last year – it is like a foreign language – just learning the formations and the calls. Now we have a complete offseason, a training camp, a preseason and 16 regular nd things are much smoother and we are really excited abut where we are at."
Sullivan was asked on Monday what – from a coaching standpoint – the Bucs have done to help Freeman improve.
“We went as a staff and took a hard look at everything, every run, every pass, every situational football decision that we made and efficiency of every play,” Sullivan said. “And based upon our personnel… based upon some of the things we were doing, what’s ultimately best for us. Certain aspects of our game we have advanced and tried to take advantage of and manipulate by formation or personnel. Other things maybe we put on the back burner. So it was very helpful for us to do that analysis.”
General manager Mark Dominik, who said most likely the Bucs will carry three quarterbacks in 2013 due to the presence of rookie Mike Glennon, who was Tampa Bay's third-round pick this year, also chimed in on the Freeman discussion on Monday.
“Even last year, he had Vincent Jackson, who he really hadn’t worked with very much,” Dominik said. “Now he has had a full season. To have those two receivers (Jackson and Mike Williams) out there ... and Doug Martin, and know him and to get a better feel for him, and know where he is going to be for the dump offs and the flares. I think all those things are big advantages going into his second year – then obviously the terminology and feeling more comfortable in the huddle when the play is called, and calling protections. I think that makes a big difference for any player. I think that is why you can throw a rookie in the league and it can be a struggle sometimes. A second year in any system is better for any quarterback.”
Sullivan also told PewterReport.com what Freeman and the entire offense need to work on to make 2013 a successful season.
“Clearly third down,” Sullivan said. “Third down is an area that we finished 26th in the NFL – clearly not good enough. And really [it was] two-fold. Because some of the issues we had weren’t necessarily on third-and-2, or third-and-4 to third-and-6, in those two categories we were pretty close to 45 percent or above, and we were very solid. The issues we had were on third-and-7 [through] third-10, and third-and-11-plus – 29 percent efficiency, 15 percent efficiency. Those are always going to be challenges but definitely not where we wanted to be. And part of that was a systematic problem that occurs on first and second down. We need to stay out of those negative plays. The penalties, the negative plays and so forth so we have less third-and-7-plus [situations].”
Tampa Bay’s second-year offensive coordinator said that Freeman clearly has a better grasp on his complex offense so far this spring than one year ago.
“If there is something that is immediate, I try to hit him right with it,” Sullivan said. “The thing that has been exciting this spring is often times he hits me with it before I hit him with it. He will say, 'Yeah I got it,' or 'What did you think of this?' So the dialogue is so much more accelerated than it was last year, again, because of the experience we have in the system. I see a command in the huddle, a command of the language, and the ability to have the plays flow just kind of flow off of his lips and be able to go out there and execute at the line of scrimmage.”
Copyright © 2011 Pewter Report, PewterReport.com and Pewter Insider. All rights reserved. PewterReport.com, the official site of Pewter Report, is an independent source of news and commentary and is not affiliated with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the NFL.