TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 25: Josh Freeman #5 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers walks off the field after beating the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium on September 25, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Now, I'm sure this will unleash some fury hurled at me, but someone has to point out that Josh Freeman seems to have regressed considerably since last season. Last year Freeman was a dream to behold. He stood tall in the pocket, made plays with his feet, had impeccable timing with his receivers, made excellent decisions, and was extremely accurate on the majority of his throws. This year, not so much.
Of course Freeman has still been making plays with his feet. Many a first down this season has come thanks to his heavenly combination of size and athleticism. I'm more concerned with his decision making and his accuracy. Now, you may be looking at Freeman's completion percentage and scratching your head. The fact of the matter is that Freeman's completion percentage is being grossly overinflated by the many check downs he has thrown this year (I mean, Earnest Graham is the team's leading receiver people, and no one else is even close).
The main concern (for me at least) lies with the fact that Freeman has been high on quite a few of his intermediate throws this season. He seems to have lost a bit of touch. Even the quick screen that Freeman threw to Williams yesterday was almost two feet too high. Fortunately, Williams was able to use his great hands and turn upfield without even missing a beat. Freeman has already thrown four interceptions, two of which were in the red zone. Luckily, we were able to win both of these games and bounce back, but the carelessness with the ball in those situations is alarming. His decision making seems to have regressed to say the least.
Where is the timing with the receivers we saw last year? I understand the lockout was quite the hindrance but I wasn't expecting this. I'm aware it's unfair to put all the blame on Freeman's shoulder's here. Olson could just not be calling the right plays, or the receivers could just be running shoddy routes. Mike Williams has caught ten balls for 89 yards and one TD through the first three games. Something besides double coverage is amiss. If Williams is being double covered that often than one would think the opposite receiver would be reaping the benefits. They're not.
While I'm ecstatic to be 2-1, I just want more. There is an extremely likely chance that we will be 3-1 after facing the Colts next Monday. That is a great first quarter of the season and puts in an extremely likely position to compete for at least a wild card spot, and perhaps the division if the Falcons offensive line keeps modeling itself after that famous cheese from Switzerland.
We're in a great spot to make a run this year, and unless the play of Freeman improves I'm not sure we can live up to our potential. I knew the TD/interception ratio he set for himself was unsustainable, but I wasn't expecting it to be totally reversed. While his play hasn't been horrible, it has been average. He is capable of much, much more. I hope we see a little bit of what we saw last year on Monday night. Our playoff hopes may very well depend on it.