Josh Freeman is not as bad as his statistics suggest

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have struggled on offense the past two games, and Josh Freeman is surely to blame for part of that -- but he hasn't had much help, either.

We've been very negative on Josh Freeman over the past couple of days, which should be no great surprise after two games where he struggled to consistently move the ball. He has now completed 24 of 53 passes for 335 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions on the year, with four sacks. Freeman is ranked near the bottom of the league in every statistical category right now.

And yet, there's reason to be positive -- because his play has not been as bad as his statistics. He has no tight end to throw to, which severely limits the Bucs' passing game, and the Buccaneers did an awful job of scheming their offense against the New York Jets.

Against the Saints, though, it was mostly Freeman's receivers who struggled to help him. Pro Football Focus pointed out just how bad it was in their ReFocused article for the game.

Freeman dropped back to pass on 11 third downs for the game and converted only three. While that looks bad, here's why the others weren't converted:

  • Two completed passes short of the sticks
  • Two drops past the first down marker
  • A receiver fell down on his break
  • A receiver failed to keep both feet in bounds
  • A completed first down called back by an illegal formation.
  • A blindside sack/fumble

If those five plays go the other way Freeman's performance looks completely different. That's not even mentioning the touchdown to Jackson that was called back or the deep ball off of Kevin Ogletree's fingertips. Some days the ball never bounces your way, and for Josh Freeman that day was Sunday.

Yes, all quarterbacks struggle with poor receiver play at times. Which is why Tom Brady's statistics look pretty bad right now, too, completing 52.7% of his throws for 5.2 yards per attempt. It's no shame to point it out, and it is a relevant data point in evaluating quarterbacks.

Intriguingly, Freeman has generally made good decisions. Every quarterback makes bad decisions at times and every quarterback will throw interceptions -- but Freeman's only two really bad decisions immediately led to interceptions. That magnifies them, and both decisions were bad. Freeman stared down his receiver and threw off his back foot into coverage on both plays. That's bad -- but we're also talking about exactly two plays over two games.

Really, there weren't any other bad decisions. There were a few inaccurate throws, but none that were really off target. And while Freeman's footwork and mechanics still leave much to be desired, they haven't led to consistently inaccurate throws.

I don't think Freeman has taken the step forward I would like to see him take, and I don't think I'd give him a contract extension if he does not improve. But his play has been much better than his statistics suggest.

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