It's no secret that the 2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers season will stand or fall with Josh Freeman's success. Will he be the quarterback who threw 25 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in 2010, or will he be the guy who led the league in turnovers last season? Football Outsiders appears to have found one reason to be optimistic about the young quarterback's future: pass pressure. According to their game charting, Josh Freeman faced pass pressure on 27.3% of all plays in 2011. Only five quarterbacks faced pressure on a higher percentage of the snaps. The Bucs hope to have combated that problem through the addition of All-Pro Carl Nicks and by moving left guard Jeremy Zuttah to center, a more natural position for him.
More importantly perhaps, Josh Freeman was also the quarterback least affected by pass pressure. Obviously every quarterback plays worse when he's pressured, but the difference between his performance under pressure and his performance without pressure was tiny compared to other quarterbacks around the league. The problem for Freeman apparently isn't that he can't handle pressure, it's that he wasn't productive in the offense as a whole. That should be easier to fix with the addition of new playmakers like Vincent Jackson and Tiquan Underwood, although there's always the possibility that Freeman will continue to make stupid decisions with the football. Here's what Football Outsiders had to say about Freeman's stats:
Freeman's performance in particular, despite a down year overall, should give Buccaneers fans some optimism for the future, especially in the face of left tackle Donald Penn's injury. It gives us a clue that 2011 was Freeman's fluke, not 2010. That's because he ranked first in DVOA with pressure two years ago; third on hurried throws, while facing pressure on 34.7 percent of pass plays no less. What killed him last season was falling from eighth to 29th in DVOA without pressure, but that seems eminently more fixable than if he had all-of-a-sudden displayed the shell shock of David Carr. Also, contrast Freeman's stats with Bradford's, which were similar both in 2011 and his "good" rookie year in 2010 (20th in DVOA with pressure, 25th on hurried throws). In that context, it's no wonder we're more bullish on Freeman than Bradford going forward.