Let's take a minute to stop talking about how awful we've looked in a few of these games and focus on what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can do to make their season a bit more successful. We've all charted Freeman's struggles, along with the entire teams. We all know the two are related, but the connection some people aren't making is the tie between our running game and Freeman's struggles. Most football people will tell you a quarterback's best friend, outside of a good offensive line is a good running game. It keeps the pressure off, allows play action to develop, and could keep an extra player in the box to defend the run.
I did a bit of checking and noticed a few trends. Freeman threw three picks last year in the first 5 games when our running game was abysmal. He threw only 3 more over the course of the next 11 games. Of those 3 picks, 2 came in the first game against Atlanta. What does this have to do with the running game you might ask. Blount did not become our full time running back until Week 6, thus our running game didn't start until Week 7. That game against Atlanta where Freeman threw 3 picks? Blount only had 13 carries for 46 yards. Outside of that game, Blount's numbers were as follows last year (Week 7 - 17). 178 carries (17.8 per game ) for 931 yards and 5 touchdowns. For the math majors out there, that's 5.28 yards per carry. Freeman over that time period threw 17 touchdowns to 1 pick, and counting that Atlanta game threw 19 TD's to 3 picks. Freeman also only averaged 28 attempts per game.
Here are the 2011 numbers for each. Blount has 100 carries right now over 7 games which equates into 14.7 carries per game, a full 3 carries less than last year, even though its buoyed by the Colts game (25 carries). Blount hasn't slowed down yardage wise, putting up 434 yards (4.34 YPC).
Freeman, on the other hand, is averaging 37.77 attempts per game, a full 10 attempts more than last year. That's a lot season to season with the same personnel and coaching in place. For some additional color, 9 TDs to 13 picks.
What does this tell me? It tells me stuff we already know, that we aren't running the ball as much, that Freeman is throwing it more and throwing it less accurately. Our identity has changed from a roughly balanced team to a pass first team. This may seem simplistic but I draw certain conclusions from this data. The offense is more effective and efficient when we run the ball. Freeman either made less mistakes or had more opportunity. At the end of the day, it seems the more the Bucs run, the more successful they were. What does this mean going forward? Hopefully that Olson sees these numbers and realizes we need to run more. This will help out Freeman, our PA pass, and our defense.
This was a pretty dirty data dive, but I think it proves a point. I'm not saying running more equals wins, but running more seems to make our offense more effective, looking at the last 24ish games. Giving Blount the ball seems to be the tonic that Freeman needs to fix this offense.