So, as most of you know by know, Greg Olson's offensive system is rumored to be a derivative of a standard West Coast offensive system, athough the playbook will probably be more balanced than a straight West Coast format. There are certainly benefits to such a system from the perspective of a young and developing quarterback and skill position players. More 3-stop drops and less 5 and 7 step drops. Less of a chance to succumb to pressure. Certainly very effective against aggressive and blitzing teams. Shorter and theoretically-easier throws to make.
Conversely, there are some nuances that can make things a little more difficult for a developing quarterback and new receivers in a West Coast system. More precise passes are required and accuracy is an absolute must. Aside from accuracy, pinpoint timing to thread the needle against underneath zone coverages is neeeded. A quarterback must make quicker progression, recognition, and releases. Crisp, precise, quick routes must be run by the receivers.....as a rounded-off route can lead to disaster against an experienced cover corner.
With those things in mind, do Josh Freeman, Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn, Mo Sto, Reggie Brown, Stroughter, Stone Hands, and the RB corps have the skillset to successfully run a West Coast-oriented offense in 2010?
Let's start with Josh Freeman. When looking at his accuracy on passes under 15 yards, his production has left something to be desired. His completion percentage is a mere 64 % on passes 0-8 yards and 10 of his 18 interceptions have come inside 15 yards from the line of scrimmage. His decisionmaking also was mind-boggling at times, throwing well-behind an open receiver in the first Saints' game on a short pass leading to a game-changing pick. The interceptions thrown in zone coverage against Carolina and the Jets also were fundamental mistakes on relatively short passes. Whether that can be looked at as just a rookie mistake will be determined early this season.
To the contrary, he completed roughly 50% of his passes beyond 15 yards, which is, at a minium, solid. He's been pretty accurate on long fades, deep out patterns and middle seams to Winslow. Even thought I think we were all happier when the Buccaneers ran the football come hell-or-highwater last year, I still think Freeman is a better quarterback when he's in the shotgun in a deep set, spread formation, rather than dropping from under center in a 3-step drop like a traditional West Coast quarterback.
However, that's not to say he can't work out in a West Coast offense. He's seemed to have put in a huge amount of work in the film room this offseason on reviewing opposing defenses and hopefully learning from the mistakes he made. Once he sees his mistakes and develops a feel for what he should and shouldn't do, he can zip the ball with that strong arm into soft spots in zones and on timing patterns and short routes in man coverage.
Furthermore, Olson has stated that this won't be a straight West Coast offense, so there will be shades of shotgun spread formations mixed with traditional I-formation plays in the playbook...and I'm sure the Buccaneers will ride with whatever seems to work early. Per Olson:
''It's a little bit of everything. It's also about running the football," Olson said. "If you're running the football well, now you're creating those loaded boxes and those opportunities for your wide receivers."
''You try to play to your players' strengths and to your quarterback's strengths more than anything," Olson said. "I think we're comfortable where Josh is at, and I think Josh is comfortable.
''We're seeing more shotgun formations, (which) wasn't something the West Coast offenses did until three or four years ago."
As for the receivers in the system, the Buccaneers certainly aren't working with John Taylor and Jerry Rice out there right now. Stroughter has impressed with his route running ability and should do well. Mo Sto is pretty much a non-fluid north and south deep ball receiver. Stone Hands Clayton really can't do much of anything outside of blocking. Reggie Brown is better than Sto in the intermediate passing game, but not dynamic. Benn is just ok with his route-running right now, but can go up and get the ball and absorb a hit on slants, hitches, in-routes, and other staple West Coast patterns. Same for Williams, except he's looked a little more crisp on his routes from what I've seen so far. Winslow, of course, will continue to be effective in space and underneath in man-coverage mismatches in the short passing game. Really, what Stovall, Benn, Williams, and Winslow give you are big targets that are more apt for running deep routes successfully right now, but have the physical tools to become successful in an intermediate passing game.
To me, in the way-way-too-early-to-predict stages of the offseason, it seems this team is geared for a passing game that is based out of a 1-2 back, 3-receiver formation that bases on running the football, but takes some chances deep in play action and in straight drops out of running formations to utilize Freeman's arm. That said, things could be totally, totally different come August/September.
What do you think of the Buccaneers adding a West Coast element to the offense?