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1. PLAYER REACTION ON JAGODZINKSI, OLSON Pewter Report has spoken with several Bucs players about the team's decision to replace Jeff Jagodzinski with Greg Olson as offensive coordinator. The players did not want to comment publically on the record, but were willing to share their thoughts about the change in offensive coordinators. They did not want to criticize Jagodzinski openly, because none of the players disliked him. However, the players were unanimous that head coach Raheem Morris made the right move in replacing Jagodzinski with Olson.
The Bucs players that spoke with Pewter Report said they were uncomfortable with Jagdozinski. What made them uneasy was the diminutive playbook, play variables, pass protection schemes, and a lack of game-planning. The players were concerned about Jagodzinski as a play-caller, and they hoped that he would improve his play-calling as he got more experience. As Pewter Report has reported before, Jagodzinski had never been a play-caller until arriving in Tampa Bay.
The players had not given up on Jagdozinski, but they had a different feel about things than what they were accustomed to. The veterans were trying to buy into what Jagodzinski was preaching, but were concerned about the direction of the offense. Lacking attention to detail was a sentiment not only voiced by Morris. Part of that was based off what the players were used to in past seasons.
Under former head coach Jon Gruden, the players were conditioned to things being explicitly organized and structured. The magnitude of Gruden's playbook was well known, and his game plans were expansive and intricate. Coming off that experience, the veteran offensive players felt like they were doing extremely little prep work under Jagodzinski. The players' opinion was that they needed something in between Jagodzinski and Gruden, who may have been guilty of over-preparing the team at times.
The players Pewter Report spoke with feel much more comfortable knowing that Olson is their offensive coordinator. Some said that he should have had the job a long time ago. They like how he has knowledge of things that were done in the past two seasons, and what worked and didn't work before.
According to the players, Olson is going to keep the current offense intact, and is not changing formations or terminology. The base offense will stay the same. However, Olson will put his stamp on it, and will cater it to the quarterback that is playing. A system or set of plays won't be forced on a quarterback. The plays will be called according to the QB's particular strengths. Olson has always been popular in his meeting room, and the quarterbacks are sure to go all out to help Olson have success.
The players agreed with the public comments by Morris that there was no disagreement about the starting quarterback decision. Some speculated immediately after the move was made that Jagodzinski wanted to start quarterback Luke McCown. Bucs players told Pewter Report that if anything the opposite was true. Jagodzinski was big backer of quarterback Byron Leftwich. Olson had somewhat of an inclination towards McCown, but was on board with making Leftwich the starter.
Bucs players say that Olson has been thrust into a tough situation taking over as offensive coordinator with only nine days until the season opener, but the players said the team is better off with Olson in place of Jagodzinski. We'll never know if Jags would have succeeded or failed in Tampa Bay, and only time will tell if Olson is the right guy for the job.
2. SOME HONESTY FROM FREEMAN If you want an honest assessment about the play of rookie quarterback Josh Freeman the best place to go is Freeman himself. The organization as a whole is very protective of their first-round pick. The one criticism that Pewter Report has heard about Freeman from One Buc Place was that he was too much like a happy-go-lucky kid, and did not have the command presence NFL teams look for in a franchise quarterback. Generally, the team has strictly avoided making any critical comments of Freeman on or off the record.
After Freeman threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans, Morris made a ridiculous sounding statement that it was his fault that the interception happened. Freeman held himself accountable for throwing the bad pass, and said it was his mistake.
Entering the final preseason game, Freeman has not thrown the ball well. He has completed just 46.9 percent of his passes with no touchdown passes and threw that one interception. Freeman has totaled 153 yards passing and while averaging 4.8 yards per pass attempt. The athletic, 6-foot-6, 248-pound Freeman has had some success running the ball. He has 48 yards rushing on five carries including a 28-yard touchdown run. He has been sacked twice, and has a quarterback rating of 48.0. Pewter Report asked Freeman to access his preseason play.
"It is definitely had its ups and downs," said Freeman. "It is preseason, so I mean obviously it all counts, but none of it is something that can really lose a game for you. I mean, I'm just trying to get better, honestly. It is nothing to live or die by. If I play bad games I'm going to be in the dumps, but if I play great games it is not like I'm the best or anything. I'm just going out to work and trying to better myself as a player.
"I've grown a lot, but there is still a lot of work to be done. It is kind of tough to judge exactly how you did because there were so many different situations, but I'm going to continue to try and improve."
During training camp Freeman did not have a great completion percentage, and that has extended to the game action. While Freeman has struggled with his accuracy in the preseason games, he said his accuracy is improving in practice.
"Yeah for sure. The more reps I get the more comfortable I feel," said Freeman. "You can watch film, anybody can watch film all day and know what they are doing, but when you have to step out there and make the throws it helps to have a lot of reps. I'm fortunate because the coaches have done a good job of working me in and getting me more reps."
Sources within the Buccaneers said that Freeman was hard to evaluate as a college prospect because the supporting cast around him was so bad. Their hopes were that with pro talent around him, his play would elevate. Freeman answered whether the better talent has elevated his play.
"I felt like I had a lot of talent around me at K-State," said Freeman. "Coming here it is definitely a different system, everything is a little different. I want to continue to grow as a player as I did in college."
On draft day, Freeman said something different. On a conference call with the Tampa Bay media, Freeman was asked if his supporting cast in college hurt his numbers and win total.
"Yeah, I'd say, I really don't want to bad mouth or bash any of my teammates," Freeman said on April 25th. "They went out and worked hard, fought hard, and played to win even though there were many games when we were outmatched. I mean if you look at my numbers they were pretty similar to the guy that got taken first. He was just winning a lot more. I definitely think there were certain factors that played into my numbers, but that is all behind me, and I'm looking to go out and prove that I'm the best, and become the best."
The second response was the more accurate answer. At Kansas State, Freeman had only a couple of players worth throwing passes to, including Packers receiver Jordy Nelson, but that was it. A terrible offensive line and running game gave Freeman no support, and had him trying to score points and win games by himself.
Tonight's game against the Texans should provide Freeman with a good opportunity to improve on his numbers. In the preseason, Freeman has not been able to get into a comfortable groove throwing the football because he gets only about 10 pass attempts a game over a few possessions. Against Houston he could get double that in a half of play. 3. HOLMES MAKES PUSH FOR ROSTER SPOT One Bucs player that has impressed fans and observers in the preseason games is defensive end Louis Holmes. The 24-year old defensive end is tied for the team lead with two sacks, and a forced fumble. Holmes has showed some real pass rush ability late in games. The 6-foot-4, 275-pound Holmes has deceptive speed and a nice array of pass rushing moves. Holmes credits defensive line coaches Todd Wash and Robert Nunn for developing those moves. They are the some of the same moves that those coaches are trying to teach starting right defensive end Gaines Adams.
"I'm taking all the coaching from the coaches," said Holmes. "I'm working on my technique and trying to play within the scheme. The team has an awesome defensive scheme. I use my athleticism within the scheme, and it has been working out well.
"(As for my moves) I have speed outside, a bull rush, and a long arm. I didn't used to have that stuff before, but I have good position coaches who coach me up really well every day. They help me elevate my game. That is what I was lacking before I got here, good coaching. Now I'm getting it, and I'm able to make plays."
Holmes played in junior college before finishing his collegiate career at Arizona. Last year he spent time with the San Francisco 49ers, and this offseason he was the only free agent defensive lineman signed by Tampa Bay.
The versatile Holmes has rushed the quarterback from right defensive end, left defensive end, and a bit as a defensive tackle. Holmes is in a tough position to make the team as the Buccaneers have eight defensive linemen that already seem set to make the squad, but Holmes has forced his way into the discussion for making the final 53. If Tampa Bay decides to keep nine defensive linemen Holmes would likely be that player. While he may not make the team, Holmes could land on the practice squad if another team doesn't pounce on this developmental prospect. 4. MAHAN COULD BE BACK Sources have told Pewter Report that center Sean Mahan could be re-signed by the team. This only reinforces the notion that Mahan's $1.6 million base salary, which was already reduced from $3 million earlier in the offseason, was the driving force behind his release. Tampa Bay cut their only veteran experienced backup in Mahan on Wednesday.
Mahan has garnered some quick interest, and is out in Oakland visiting the Raiders. The Bucs believe they are taking a calculated risk to go with younger players like Rob Bruggeman, and rely on veteran center Jeff Faine to stay healthy.
Faine has dealt with back and groin injuries since last season. If the Buccaneers see Faine go down with injury, and Mahan is still available, the Bucs have an interest in bringing him back.