Analyzing Josh Freeman’s 2012 Value
Josh Freeman finished his 2010 campaign – his first full year as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting quarterback – with 25 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions. As the leader of that Bucs team in 2010, the only team in NFL history to start 10+ rookies and win 10+ games, things seemed promising for the young Bucs led by the emerging sophomore Freeman.
2011 didn’t yield the results that Bucs fans had expected though, closing the season with ten consecutive losses. Freeman’s numbers also took a major hit: 16 TDs, 22 INTs, a QB rating of 74.6 (from 95.6 in 2010) and 9 fumbles.
So what caused Freeman’s shortcomings? Let’s go inside the numbers.
It’s easy to say that Freeman’s success in 2010 was a fluke, but trust me, as a diehard Bucs fan, when I tell you that Freeman’s shortcomings were not his fault, whatsoever. The lack of heart and ability around Freeman was horrific; not even Joe Montana could have made chicken salad out of the chicken sh*t that was the 2011 Bucs’ roster and coaching staff. Trust me: I watched every single game at least twice every week and watch them repeatedly in the offseason too. Freeman is not at fault.
First, Running back LeGarrette Blount didn’t provide enough of a presence in the running game, averaging only 13 carries per game and only 55 yards per game. In the last three games of the season, Blount carried the ball 9, 2, and 6 times. Blount also can’t catch balls out of the backfield or block at all. Backup Kregg Lumpkin didn’t fill in any of those voids either. This leads me to my first point: all of the pressure to produce on offense was on Freeman; he averaged nearly 40 passing attempts per game. His worst passing performance came in London against the Chicago Bears, where he threw 4 INTs thanks to his 51 passing attempts.
Blount wasn’t the only component of Freeman’s supporting cast which made Freeman’s numbers suffer. The offensive line, too, was very inconsistent: the right tackle Jeremy Trueblood has always been very shaky, and Freeman constantly saw defenders in his face. New Head Coach Greg Schiano recently said, regarding watching tape on Freeman last year, “you can see indecision in a guy’s feet”. Freeman’s feet were often unsettled on throws because of this perpetual anticipation of leakage up front. It was a rarity for Freeman to sit in the pocket and settle his feet because he just wasn’t given that time from his offensive line. Freeman was pressured 40.99% of his dropbacks, which was second in the league in 2010 and pressured 204 times in 2011, third most in the league. Freeman’s only time the whole season he dipped under 50% passing in a game (45.5%) came against the Texans where he was sacked a season-high four times and threw three interceptions.
Freeman received no relief from the Bucs defense, one of the worst performing defenses in franchise history. Let’s just say they gave up 41 points to Blaine Gabbert and the Jaguars. Freeman was constantly put in situations where gameplans had to be scrapped and long-balls were dialed up instead. Freeman, in that regard, only completed 11 passes for 20+ yards while completing 268 under 20 yards. Freeman has never been known as a long-ball, cannon-armed quarterback, so when asked to heave desperate attempts downfield, his numbers are likely to take a hit. Freeman took 428 snaps while trailing and only 65 with the lead. That sums up how Freeman never really was put in a situation to succeed given the team around him. He was too often asked to do things out of his comfort zone to single handedly try to carry the team to a victory.
What about 2012?
In 2012, expect numbers closer to 2010’s for Freeman. With new head coach Greg Schiano comes a culture change for the better and the Bucs have been very active this offseason which should bolster the supporting cast around Freeman, taking less of the weight to win off his shoulders. With Schiano also comes a new offensive coordinator in Mike Sullivan, the former New York Giants QB coach. With Sullivan’s experience grooming Eli Manning and better playcalling (can’t get much worse with Greg Olsen) Freeman will be much improved.
The addition of Vincent Jackson gives Freeman a true #1 receiver and moves Mike Williams to the #2 WR position, where he more naturally fits and can certainly flourish. By drafting Doug Martin in the first round, the Bucs have added someone to the backfield who can get more touches and provide a different dimension to the offense alongside Blount. The addition of all-pro guard Carl Nicks certainly will help Martin and Blount in the run game as well as control some of the leakage that Freeman saw in his face in 2011. Veteran TE Kellen Winslow, Jr. is also no longer with the team and that will give Freeman a chance to breath: the selfish and whiny Winslow was visibly upset with Freeman towards the end of the 2011 season, so adding a more supportive, team-oriented Dallas Clark gives Freeman a clearer head and an experienced voice in the huddle.
Freeman has even slimmed down this offseason, losing 20 pounds since the end of last season and toning up. The defense has also added some playmakers such as draft picks Mark Barron and Lavonte David as well as free agent cornerback Eric Wright, so Freeman shouldn’t always be put in a situation where he needs to pioneer a massive comeback each week.
When you go inside the numbers in 2011, you see that Freeman’s flaws were truly faults of teammates around him and he simply couldn’t win games by himself. With a better supporting cast and coaching staff in 2012, there’s no doubt in my mind that Freeman’s numbers will soar back toward 2010 levels.