Copyright 2009

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Publisher Scott Reynolds
“After watching him lead my alma mater’s offense for three years at Kansas State, I expected this type of performance from quarterback Josh Freeman – but certainly not in his first NFL start. Over time I expected Freeman to develop into the type of quarterback that could throw three touchdown passes, including two in the fourth quarter to rally Tampa Bay to victory from an 11-point deficit. Obviously, Freeman didn’t want to wait to develop, and it’s a credit to him and offensive coordinator Greg Olson that his level of preparedness was high enough to achieve a win right out of the gate, especially after coming off a sub-par preseason in which Freeman had a 41 QB rating. So many things about Freeman’s performance against Green Bay really impressed me. His pocket presence was outstanding. He knew when to leave the pocket and almost always calmly looked downfield for a big play before taking off and running. I liked the gutsiness he displayed in wanting to stretch the field vertically with his big arm. His calm, even-keeled demeanor served him well in the red zone where Freeman threw three touchdown passes and hit a two-point conversion pass with relative ease. But most of all, I was impressed with Freeman’s progress. He has come along way from his K-State days and from the preseason in a very short time to get to this point in his development. That only comes from hard work. Freeman overcame all of the little knocks about his conditioning or him not being on top of the details earlier this summer until he became the number two quarterback or going home to Kansas City for a three-day vacation during the bye week with a great debut performance on Sunday. Freeman and Olson should be proud of his efforts.”

“Remember when I complained that the Bucs should have taken better advantage of their bye week and practiced more than twice for a total of 2.5 hours? My reasoning was that by starting a rookie quarterback like Freeman, who was the third-string quarterback during training camp and the preseason, he could use all of the reps he could get with the team’s starters since he rarely played with them in the preseason or in practice prior to the start of the season. Some extra snaps during the bye week may have prevented two fumbled snap exchanges between Freeman and center Jeff Faine, including one with two minutes left with the Bucs in the lead. It may have also fostered a connection on a touchdown or two to Michael Clayton, who got open deep twice, but was overthrown by Freeman. They say the NFL is a game of inches and that the difference between winning and losing is an attention to details. For a team that is not flush with talent or experience like the Buccaneers, they need every edge they can get and must minimize mistakes. Not getting in extra practice time during the bye week with a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start may not have hurt them in the Buccaneers’ 38-28 win over the Packers, but it didn’t necessarily help them, either. Freeman will be playing catch up all year to make up for the reps he missed with the starters during the OTAs, the mini-camp, training camp, the preseason and the bye week. Every rep in practice he gets will aid in his development from this point forward and help him eliminate some of the mistakes he made today.”

“I don’t know why offensive coordinator Greg Olson and head coach Raheem Morris kept over-analyzing short yardage situations against Green Bay. On third-and-1 in the third quarter, Josh Freeman threw a play-action pass to fullback Earnest Graham in the flat that would have picked up four or five yards, but the on-the-money pass was dropped. Then on third-and-2 later in the third quarter, Freeman’s pass in the flat to Sammie Stroughter was broken up by Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush. The last time I checked, Freeman was 6-foot-6, 265 pounds. If he were to literally fall over the line of scrimmage he would pick up two yards. Time after time at Kansas State, Freeman would lunge his big frame forward to easily convert third-and-short situations. As a junior, Freeman rushed for 404 yards and 14 touchdowns. I saw him rush for 95 yards and four touchdowns on 18 carries against Texas A&M alone. Morris and Olson finally decided to let Freeman quarterback sneak it on a fourth-and-1 situation with two minutes left in the game, but had to call timeout first to think about. Freeman never got a chance to execute it because Jeremy Zuttah’s false start created a fourth-and-6 situation, but there should be no hesitation. The quarterback sneak has to become a part of Tampa Bay’s offense with Freeman at the helm.”

“I was thoroughly impressed with the play of Tampa Bay’s young defensive players against Green Bay. We got to see Corey Lynch get some snaps at safety when Will Allen injured his thumb and Tanard Jackson was dinged up in the second quarter. Lynch read his keys perfectly and broke up a deep pass intended for Donald Driver that wound up being picked off by cornerback Aqib Talib. A host of young defensive linemen also turned in fine performances with Tim Crowder, Roy Miller and Michael Bennett each getting sacks against Green Bay. Rookie Kyle Moore didn’t get a sack, but saw his first regular season NFL action on Sunday. The team’s veterans – Ryan Sims, Chris Hovan and Stylez G. White – also got into the act, combining for three sacks. Tampa Bay’s defensive line was eight deep against Green Bay and that allowed the entire unit to stay fresh and rush the passer when it mattered the most. Is the Buccaneers defensive line finally stepping up, or is it just business as usual against Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers? In Rodgers’ last two games against Tampa Bay, which were both losses, he is 31-of-62 passing (50 percent) for 431 yards with four touchdowns, six interceptions and getting sacked nine times. Time will tell.”

“This win was big, big, big, big, big, big, big for head coach Raheem Morris, general manager Mark Dominik and the players and assistant coaches. The locker room was so joyful and upbeat. You could feel the collective sigh from the players when they snapped their 0-7 start to the 2009 season and the team’s 11-game losing streak dating back to last year. Morris and Dominik have had their nerves frayed by the losing and it was really taking a toll on them mentally and physically. Congrats are in order especially for linebackers coach Joe Barry, whose personal losing streak dating back to his two years in Detroit had reached a ghastly 24 straight games. Prior to Sunday’s win, Barry had tasted victory in the regular season just once (a 25-20 win over Kansas City in Week 16 during the 2007 season) in his last 31 games. Perhaps no one savored Sunday’s triumph more than Barry, and deservedly so.”

Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn
"It's no coincidence that Sunday's game was Tampa Bay's most complete and it wound up being the Bucs' first win of the 2009 regular season. The Bucs received contributions from all three phases – offense, defense and special teams. Tampa Bay's offense was led by rookie quarterback Josh Freeman, who was poised and made fairly good decisions with the football in his first pro start. While he needs to improve his accuracy, the former first-round pick made plays, especially in the second half, in Tampa Bay's come-from behind win over Green Bay. The defense notched five sacks and three interceptions, two of which led to scores. The special teams unit gave the Bucs a huge boost with Clifton Smith's 83-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter that led to Freeman's second of three TD passes on the day. Congratulations on your first win as a head coach, Raheem Morris. If your team can have more balanced efforts and production it won't be your last."

"Was anyone else ready to see Tampa Bay's throwback uniforms return to the closet within the first few minutes of Sunday's contest? In the first five offensive plays of the game between the Bucs and Packers, Tampa Bay's offense went three-and-out with a dropped pass by Cadillac Williams and quarterback Josh Freeman sliding short of the first down marker on a third-and-5 scramble. Those gaffes were followed by Packers QB Aaron Rodgers throwing a 74-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver James Jones to cap off a two-play, 80-yard scoring drive to put the Packers up 7-0. Tampa Bay's poor start to Sunday's game probably reminded fans of how the Bucs fared more often than not in the creamsicle days. However, Tampa Bay's 38-28 win over Green Bay likely was a refreshing ending for Bucs fans, who deserve a lot of credit for the noise they made at Ray-Jay Sunday. It was one of the loudest atmospheres this reporter can remember at a Bucs home game in a long time, and one very few would expect from a fan base following a team that was 0-7 heading into today's game."

"How big was Bucs cornerback Elbert Mack's interception and return to Green Bay's 8-yard line in the first quarter on Sunday? Consider the fact that the Bucs had scored just two touchdowns in the first quarter in their first seven games of the season. Mack's pick helped set up Tampa Bay's third TD of the season in the first quarter, which came when rookie quarterback Josh Freeman tossed a 6-yard pass to running back Derrick Ward for a score, which tied the game at 7."

"Even though new Buccaneer Connor Barth made a 38-yard field goal Sunday, Tampa Bay's kicking game still is a major concern. Barth missed a 45-yarder before making the 38-yarder. That means the Bucs have made just 3-of-9 (33.3 percent) field goals through the first half of the season. This, coming from a unit that was supposed to be a strength of the team heading into the season when the Bucs had both Mike Nugent and Matt Bryant. Yikes."

"We've been critical of Tampa Bay's pass rush, or lack thereof, and for good reason. The Bucs had just 11 sacks through the first seven games of the season. But let's give credit where credit is due. Granted, Tampa Bay's defensive line faced a suspect Green Bay offensive line that had surrendered 31 sacks through seven games this year, but this unit delivered for the Bucs on Sunday, notching six sacks, which was over half of the team's total sack total through seven games. In addition to their five sacks, all of which came in the second half, the Bucs also had 12 quarterback hurries, which contributed to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers throwing three interceptions. This is the type of production many expected from the Bucs defensive line when the team hired Jim Bates as defensive coordinator. It should be interesting to see how this unit follows up this performance next week in Miami, which has surrendered 23 quarterback takedowns this year."

"Tampa Bay's 11-game losing streak (dating back to 2008) has officially come to an end. Not only do the Bucs avoid becoming the third team in the history of the NFL to go winless in a regular season. They also avoid matching the 1985 Bucs' dismal start, which was 0-9."

Beat Writer Charlie Campbell
"After the Bucs drafted Josh Freeman some questioned the team's decision to select the Kansas State product because he was an early junior entry and did not complete 60 percent of his passes in college. Most players that have those two issues have had a high probability of not panning out in the NFL. When Tampa Bay made Freeman its franchise quarterback, it gave an excuse for the accuracy problems that Freeman had in college. The Bucs coaches and management said that Freeman was actually a better than 60 percent passer when you added all the dropped passes from his Wildcats receivers. It is true that Freeman played with a bad supporting cast at Kansas State. However, that logic seemed questionable as many college quarterbacks have receiving corps that drop a lot of passes. In training camp, Freeman was an inaccurate passer. In the preseason games Freeman was an inaccurate passer (44.9 percent). And in his first professional start Freeman was an inaccurate passer completing 14-of-31 passes (45 percent). Against Green Bay, Freeman overthrew a wide open Michael Clayton twice for two potential touchdowns. Entering the game, offensive coordinator Greg Olson said he wanted to see Freeman throw the ball accurately. Olson said that a cannon for an arm would do a team no good if the ball is not precisely thrown to the receivers. Accuracy is the major flaw in Freeman's game. Tampa Bay has to hope that with more time in practice, and live game action he will start throwing the ball more precisely. He may never be a high completion-percentage passer, and it is not essential for a team to win a championship. In recent history, the Giants Eli Manning completed only 56 percent of his passes for New York's Super Bowl Championship team in 2007. For his career, Manning has a 56 percent completion percentage. While the Bucs can win despite Freeman's inaccuracy, it would be a lot easier and feature a better offense if Freeman is able to start completing more passes and got up to the 56 percent mark."

"In the weeks after Bucs wide receiver Michael Clayton had a horrible game against the Philadelphia Eagles with four dropped passes, I was calling for Clayton to be benched and replaced by Maurice Stovall in the starting lineup. Entering the game with the Packers, Clayton had 11 catches and seven drops on the season. He was averaging a little more than one catch and one drop per game. Clayton came up with two big catches against Green Bay. A 29-yard catch in the fourth quarter and two-point conversion pass in the end zone. While Clayton had a better performance compared to recent games, he was still outperformed by Stovall. The fourth-year veteran Stovall started at the ‘X' receiver position for the injured Antonio Bryant. Stovall grabbed three passes for 46 yards in the game, including a 21-yarder. The Notre Dame product also has the ability to play the 'Z' (flanker) position that Clayton starts at. Throughout the game against the Packers, Stovall was able to get open more consistently than Clayton. Stovall got separation from defensive backs, made some clutch catches over the middle of the defense, and presented a good target for Freeman. Over his career, Clayton has proved that the only thing he does well consistently is block and drop passes. Stovall deserves an opportunity to start for Clayton when Bryant returns to the lineup, and Sunday's game against the Packers was further proof of it."

"Tampa Bay tried a rare trick play on offense on Sunday against the Packers. On the first possession of the third quarter, running back Clifton Smith caught a direct shotgun snap and ran behind the offensive line that was pulling to the left. Smith attempted to throw the ball back to quarterback Josh Freeman, but the pass was off the mark and went out of bounds for a 6-yard loss. In theory, Freeman was supposed to catch the ball and throw it deep downfield to wide receiver Sammie Stroughter. The rookie receiver was well covered, and the Packers weren't fooled. If Freeman caught the pass he did have a lot of open field in front of him to run, but no options in the passing game. While the play didn't work, it was good to see the Buccaneers take a chance and try something different to move the ball. The drawback of the play was that it put the Bucs in a bad down-and-distance situation. While it didn't work, I applaud the aggressiveness. When the Bucs are 0-7 entering the game, why not be creative and push the envelope?"

"It is interesting how win can effect this team so greatly. Not only does it help the current management and coaches take a big step in retaining their jobs, it can change the offseason greatly. Entering Sunday's game with the Packers the Buccaneers were in line to have the number one pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. After the victory on Sunday the Bucs could drop from the first spot in the draft to the sixth selection. Tampa Bay is now one of five teams that have one win on the season. The others are Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, and St. Louis. There are also three teams with two wins that could leap in front of Tampa Bay before the end of the season: Oakland, Tennessee and Washington. The Bucs are at a drawback for the tiebreakers as well. The Buccaneers have played a lot of good teams in 2009, so their opponent's winning percentage is pretty good as well. The teams with the same record that have lost to an easier schedule would pick before Tampa Bay. The difference in draft order could be huge. If Tampa Bay is picking in the top four-to-six range, they could miss out on Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh or Tennessee safety Eric Berry. In 2007, being back one slot caused the Bucs to miss out on Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas. The Bucs also would have been in a better slot to trade up to get wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Instead, the Bucs drafted a bust in defensive end Gaines Adams."

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