Over the coming months we'll be going through the different positions on the team, analyzing how they performed last year and what needs to improve for next year. To get a couple of different points of view I've asked the other Bucs Nation writers to contribute for these pieces as well.
First up: Quarterbacks
The one position I deemed to be the weakest link of the offense, was indeed, the strongest. All offseason we heard about the work ethic, the hiring of Alex Van Pelt, another year under the system and I didn't buy one cent of it. I was wrong, and I couldn't be happier to eat my words. Freeman took care of the ball and then some. While, the statistics have been and will be talked about, I was impressed just visually. In regards to the quarterback position as a whole, I think we are fine. Josh Johnson is a viable option as a second string quarterback, and Olson even used him at times to change speeds (often running it). Rudy Carpenter is far from a good option, but he's also 3rd string. Most teams are screwed if they get down to their emergency option and often look to Free Agency for a fix.
What I would work on/change is Freeman's knowledge of defenses and his ability to get through his reads. About half-way through the season he started finding other receivers not named Kellen Winslow and Mike Williams, which benefited the productivity as an offense. As the season wore on you also saw him start calling more audibles that were successful. Anyone can call an audible, it's what your checking into that matters. All of this is part of Freeman's growth. Sure you need to get him to throw off his front foot more consistently, but I'm far more worried about the knowledge aspect of it.
Josh Freeman sure proved a lot of people wrong with his performance this year. He moved from the group of Quarterbacks with 'potential' to the group that can lead a team and do well. 25 touchdowns and 6 interceptions make for a great year. He was consistent throughout the year, never having a game where he cost his team the victory. And his running ability proved to be great added value, getting the Bucs a lot of first downs on the ground when receivers were covered. Freeman provided the Bucs with an eciting offense, fourth-quarter comebacks, and explosive plays. That doesn't mean the former Kansas State QB was perfect this year, though. He threw off his back foot too much when under pressure, leading to some errant balls. He made some boneheaded throws, especially while being dragged down, and he still has to do a better job of feeling pressure and seeing the entire field. But none of these problems are insurmountable, and he got better at these things as the season progressed. If he puts in a full offseason of work like he did last year, things should only get better for him.
But the backup QB spot is interesting as well. Greg Olson made a concerted effort to get Josh Johnson one or two snaps per game, using him in different trick plays designed specifically for him - loosely based on the Wildcat. Johnson looked a lot more comfortable in limited action this year, than he did starting 4 games last season. I really think Josh Johnson has the potential to be a starter in this league, and if a team's in need of a young quarterback they may be willing to give up a mid-round draft pick for him. That would leave Rudy Carpenter with the backup job, who is basically a mystery to me right now.
Next week we're talking about the interior Defensive Line.