A few days ago Josh Freeman was the 25th quarterback in the NFL. Now he's the 10th best quarterback under 25, according to NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal. Here's an excerpt, but you should really read the entire thing.
Freeman's first-round talent has shown up in his four NFL seasons. He owns every tool you look for in a quarterback; he just hasn't shown the ability to do it consistently. He's shown enough that there's hope Freeman can be a top-10 NFL quarterback that is in contention for the playoffs and Super Bowl every year. He has that type of skill set.
Freeman has sometimes been compared to Ben Roethlisberger because of body type, but his career is more likely to resemble that of Carson Palmer. Freeman has enough talent to wow you for a play or a week or even a month, but he leaves you wanting more.
I actually like that Carson Palmer comparison. As much as he has been criticized the past couple of years, it's easy to forget that he was a top three quarterback in the NFL before his injuries. The similarities are pretty obvious, too: they're both big, strong-armed, pocket-passers with enough mobility to move in the pocket and scramble a little. If Freeman does turn into Carson Palmer (without the whole forcing-your-way-out-of-two-teams thing), I don't think the Bucs could complain about that result at all.
One reason to be high on Josh Freeman is, quite simply, his youth. He's not much older than most successful young quarterbacks in the league, and is actually younger than both Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton. Josh Freeman seems older, but that's mostly because he was so young when he entered the league. Of course, the question may be whether experience in the league or age is more important to try to forecast the future of a player. I don't know the answer to that question, but it's something you have to take into account.
At the same time, he hasn't performed like a good quarterback the past few years. We've all seen how he performed on the field which was, quite simply, inconsistent. He had great plays and a few great games, but too often he missed throws and reads. That's something he has to improve on. That was reflected in most of the advanced statistics rankings, too. Freeman ranked 23rd among NFL quarterbacks on Football Outsiders' list, while he ranked 18th by ESPN's Total QBR.
Gregg Rosenthal points out Freeman's pocket movement as a big positive. I'm inclined to agree and I thought it was one of the few things in which he actually got better in 2011, but I also think he took a small step back during the 2012 season. Whether it was because of a change in scheme or personnel, Freeman did do a good job using his blockers to create space for himself, but I thought he looked worse throwing the job when bodies came closer and space became constricted. And that's a problem in the NFL, where a completely clean pocket is exceedingly rare.
Rosenthal also points to numerous instances of miscommunication, with Mike Williams apparently a factor there in his eyes. Communication goes both ways and in the Buccaneers' offensive system it's especially crucial as it relies heavily on adjustments made during the play. If the quarterback and receiver see a situation differently, you will get those weird throws that appear to be thrown to no one. That could be Freeman's fault or the receiver's fault, but it's really the consequence of being in a system like that for the first time. It takes time for everyone to get on the same page. It took a lot of time for Eli Manning to get on the same page as his receivers, too. It can also affect Freeman's willingness to pull the trigger, as he may not be confident on where his receiver is going. This is an area where you should see immediate improvement.
Overall, there's a lot to like about Josh Freeman, and there are many questions he has yet to answer. We all knew that already, of course. This year is a make-or-break year for Josh Freeman, after a 2012 season that simply wasn't good enough.
One final note. There's this quote from NFL.com's Steve Wyche in a separate article.
Numerous guys have told me that when the ball leaves his hand, it's like a missile being blasted from a launcher.
Josh Freeman is now the missile blaster. My work here is done.
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