Much has been written on the youth movement and Tampa's stern commitment to it. What is surprising is the teams early success, and success that has been sustained throughout the season. Josh Freeman, Mike Williams, and LeGarrette Blount are 22, 23, and 24 years old, respectively, and are having huge years. This last game at New Orleans is going to be exciting not only because of playoff implications but for the personal achievements of these young men in particular.
My prediction for Freeman's TD/INT ratio this season (.500) was too cautious, as it's closer to 4:1. He's thrown for 23 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions with a passer rating well over 90. Also, with another 4 yards he'll have accrued over 3,200 on the season. With Tampa fans being used to Jeff Garcia these numbers are doubly impressive. Drafting Freeman was a decision I was firmly against- never been happier to be wrong.
Mike Williams and LeGarrette Blount came into the league with a lot of scrutiny. Both provoked questions of commitment, maturity, and focus. Both responded by vying for rookie of the year (though Bradford is going to win since he's a quarterback). Williams has 10 touchdowns on the season, the most for a Buccaneer receiver in ages, and more than all but four wideouts in the league. He has sure hands and runs precise routes, forcing the defense to respect more than just Kellen Winslow in the passing game. With receiving threats and a budding quarterback the passing offense is rejuvenated. This also gives them more room to run.
LeGarrette Blount was shunned in the draft and avoided like the plague. Yet he works hard on the field as well as off to shed the stigma of his mistakes. Blount runs with tenacity and it shows- he leads the league with 27 broken tackles with a lot fewer carries than anyone remotely close to him. With a makeshift line in front of him he doesn't make excuses but puts up big numbers. He's averaging over 5 yards per carry, and is just 59 yards shy of 1,000 on the year when he didn't touch the ball in three contests. Williams is also only 76 yards shy of 1,000 in his rookie year. With one performance left, it's likely that one if not both men will be able to acquire the illustrious number.
Three key fixtures of the offense are barely out of college and they're having star caliber years. All three were seen as gambles in their own way and have thus far paid off with showings of huge upsides. Tampa is likely to end up having the most prolific rookie RB and WR this year, which is extremely uplifting. It's too bad they aren't going to win rookie honors.