I know what you're thinking. "Two posts in one day? Settle down sir." And to that I say: No, I will not settle down. I am fired up after a strong win, and I plan on talking about it as much as possible. Since my first post was focused on the defense, I believe an offensive piece is in order.
So where do I start? How about with this: Tampa’s offense was not as bad in the second half as fans, or the stats, made them out to be. Rather, they were victim to two problems: The bad play of two offensive linemen, and a sudden case of butter fingers. Hit the jump to read more, though you probably already know who I am pointing at by this point.
1) The Positives
A) Josh Freeman
Seems like just a few weeks ago people were worried about Freeman. Is he a franchise QB, or just a mediocre one? While the stats may not paint a convincing picture either way, his play says otherwise. Freeman was decisive, crisp and displayed great footwork all game. The first drive was a thing of beauty for him, especially on the touchdown throw to Mike Williams.
On the play, Williams went in montion across the field, and Freeman's pre-snap read allowed him to see the miss match it created. After the play action, Freeman looked off the safety to the left and came back for the quick strike to Williams in the back of the enzone. It was a great play on both sides.
As for the rest of the game, Freeman continued to make prompt decisions, with the only miss fire by my count being his overthrow of Vincent Jackson on the second drive of the game for Tampa. Even on the batted balls, Freeman looked as though he made the right decision, but the offensive line seemed to allow too much push back into Freeman's line of sight. Freeman ended the day with a pedestrian 138 yards, but could have ended over 200 if not for a few drops and a 33 yarder to Jackson which was called back.
All in all, Freeman seems back in his 2010 form after one game. Here's to hoping he keeps it up through the next 16 weeks.
B) Mike Williams and Doug Martin
What else can we say about the spectacular debut of Doug Martin that hasn't already been said? How about that, at least to me, he had the most impressive debut for all the offensive rookies not named Griffin. Martin ran hard and decisive against a tough group of physical Panthers linebackers.
He showed both explosion and shiftiness, along side a potential for big time plays. He finished the game with 95 yards on 24 carries and looked like the feature back for years to come. Add to that his 12 receiving yards and the Bucs backfield has a new dimension it hasn't seen since Carnell Williams.
Mike Williams wouldn't be out done by the rookie though. Williams came out in style, starting with two receptions (one for a touchdown) and added a third in spectacular fashion while drawing a blatant pass interference. Williams also did a good job in blocking, a talent overshadowed by his ability to make plays in the passing game. Williams is on pace for a great year, and alongside Freeman, looks like he is back to 2012 form.
C) The Left Side of the Offensive Line.
The offensive line had an up and down game, but the left side provided all the up. Carl Nicks had a stellar debut, being the MVP of the line. Nicks provided a huge push in the run game and stood up all Panthers linemen he lined up against. Nicks will make the lose of Davin Joseph a little less painful for Bucs fans.
Penn also played well but left a little to be desired. He did get pushed back on a few occasions, but didn't allow a sack. He did get beat once or twice inside, but Freeman was able to scramble and make the plays when needed. All in all, Penn did a good job, but may have problems with Pierre Paul next week.
2) The Negatives
A) The Right Side of the Offensive Line.
Both Trueblood and Larsen had tough games. Ted Larsen looked strong in the run game, but was beat routinely in pass protection. He didn't allow a sack for most of the game mainly due to a few non holding calls the refs gifted him, but did let one go late in the game to go with three drive killing penalties he committed. Larsen will need help going forward if Tampa wants to keep Freeman upright, which is not good for Tampa because he plays next to Jeremy Trueblood.
Trueblood had a pretty bad game as far as pass protection goes, and while he did get push in the run game, his slow feet hurt him against Greg Hardy. Even worse, he will have both Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora to contend with on Sunday. Expect Mike Sullivan to send a few chip blocks to help the right side against the Giants.
B) Vincent Jackson
Jackson's first game as a Buc was so-so. He lead the team in receiving but also dropped two balls that could have kept drives going for the Bucs. Even during training camp, rumbles of Jackson's drops were heard but ignored by many fans. Last nights game did nothing to disprove that. The 5 million dollar man needs to step up his game if Tampa wants to join this offensive revolution.