Time for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to unleash Josh Freeman

TAMPA, FL - JULY 29: Quarterback Josh Freeman #5 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers throws a pass during the team's first pre-season training camp practice July 29, 2011 at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Josh Freeman is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' best player right now. Without Freeman, the Bucs would never have ended the season with 10 wins - they would have been lucky to end up with 6 wins. Yet despite Freeman carrying the offense for all of last season, he had the fewest pass attempts of all 12 quarterbacks to start 16 games with just 474. 

Of course, that's not an entirely fair representation as the number of attempts don't line up with the number of dropbacks, as Freeman took off and ran for a number of plays as well. So, we should look at total number of plays. Fortunately, ESPN has a very handy list in their Total Quarterback Rating article. Of the 12 quarterbacks who started 16 games only Tom Brady and Mark Sanchez had fewer dropbacks. Tom Brady had the luxury of being so far ahead in games that he could spend entire second halves simply handing off the ball, while Mark Sanchez's impact was consistently minimized by the coaching staff. Even Matt Ryan, who plays in a run-first offense, had more dropbacks than Josh Freeman: 709 vs 626. 

Josh Freeman is perhaps the best young quarterback in the NFL, who not only took giant steps from his rookie year to his sophomore year, but also improved during the season. He was the main reason the Bucs won games - but it seems the Bucs were reluctant to put the ball in his hands compared to other quarterbacks. 

For the Bucs to shine, this offense needs to rest on the shoulders of Josh Freeman: he needs to be the cog in the machine that makes everything go. That doesn't mean abandoning the run, but it does mean allowing Josh Freeman to throw it more than he did last season. It's time for the Bucs to truly unleash their franchise quarterback. 

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