Freeman Has Work to Do

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 11: Chris Houston #23 of the Detroit Lions makes an interception against Arrelious Benn #17 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the season opener at Raymond James Stadium on September 11, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Previously, I wrote about how Freeman really looked out of sync with his receivers in the preseason and seemed to lack confidence to throw down field.  Sunday’s game against Detroit proved me wrong, but showed there is still much to improve on.  Freeman still was relying on check downs-as evident by Graham’s eight catches. 

This could be due to the fact that the Bucs ran their 2 minute offense in the 2nd half, but a running back should never have the most catches for a team, regardless of what type of offense the team is running.  Freeman also was always playing from behind, which is a problem this offense needs to fix.  The team got off to an early lead, a rarity which fans don’t usually see. 

This lead was due to Aqib Talib though, not to Freeman.  Josh Freeman needs to learn how to get the offense going right away instead of waiting till the end of the game to try and pull miraculous comebacks.  As much as I love watching the Bucs pull out the narrow victory, I would rather the Bucs win comfortably rather than a last second touchdown. 

Freeman did prove some of my assumptions wrong. He was willing to throw down field, which shows trust in his receivers.  That deep throw to Arrelious Benn, in the first half, should not have been intercepted.  Coach Morris said that Arrelious should knock that ball down if he is not going to catch it, and I completely agree.  Morris calls those kinds of throws "trust throws," and he calls them this because Josh is throwing that ball up in the hopes that his receiver will make a play on the ball.  If the receiver can’t, then he had better knock that ball down.  Otherwise, Freeman cannot trust in that receiver. 

Mike Williams did it for Freeman later in the game, but Arrelious let the team down when he let that ball be picked.  Josh Freeman further proved me wrong by vastly improving his accuracy.  In the preseason, he was 55%, but in this game he dramatically increased his accuracy by 10%.  That is an excellent stat for any quarterback and should make all fans happy that he is finally hitting his targets.  It is unfortunate that nine of those throws were to his running backs, but at least the accuracy is there. 

                Next week the Buccaneers will be facing the Minnesota Vikings, who - despite having an excellent pass rush - are not the best in coverage.  As long as Freeman can get the ball going to LeGarrette Blount, then he should be fine.  But if Freeman has to have another game where he makes over 40 throws, he will be in a world of hurt because of time spent in the pocket. 

Despite the Bucs’ O-line looking good against the strong Lions, the Vikings have a defensive line unit that has been together a lot longer and has produced much more deadly numbers.  The Bucs will likely not go into the hurry up offense if trailing, like against the Lions, as this leads to the defense being stranded.  Although the hurry up was effective in getting the Bucs some deep drives, there were 2 or 3 that led nowhere and caused the defense to have to hurry back onto the field after only a few minutes of rest. 

If the time of possession is at all similar to last game, where the Bucs had only 10 minutes of possession in the first half, then this defense will give up points.  Personally, I agree with Sanders when I think the Defense played well, but whenever a defense is out there working hard for 20 game minutes (about an hour or so of real time) just in the first half, then opposing teams will start to score.  It is up to Freeman and the offense to keep control of the ball and play their game.  Run Blount hard, run him some more, and then play action and deep passes to stretch the defense and keep them on their heels.  Let’s hope for a better offensive showing this Sunday.

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