Freeman learning new Bucs offense
Josh Freeman walked off the practice field, drenched in sweat
Tampa Bay’s young quarterback is excited about the new offense
the Buccaneers are installing and confident the team has the talent
to run it effectively.
The fourth-year pro welcomes the addition of first-round draft
pick Doug Martin and All-Pro guard Carl Nicks to the running game.
And he appreciates what receiver Vincent Jackson and tight end
Dallas Clark could mean to a passing attack that sputtered during
last season’s 4-12 finish.
Freeman also feels good about the progress he’s made working
with the men first-year coach Greg Schiano hired to help the
24-year-old realize his potential, offensive coordinator Mike
Sullivan and quarterbacks coach Ron Turner.
”For sure, this offense is allowing a lot of guys to step up
and shine,” Freeman said during a three-day minicamp that
The next time the Bucs convene will be for the start of training
camp in late July.
”In this month we have off … it’s going to be crucial that
guys stay in their playbooks, that guys get together and work on
their crafts because when we get back it’ll be full speed,”
Tampa Bay concluded 2011 on a 10-game losing streak that led to
the firing of former coach Raheem Morris. In addition to yielding a
NFL-high 30.9 points per game and ranking 30th among 32 teams in
yards allowed, the Bucs had one of the league’s lowest scoring
offenses at just under 18 points per game.
Freeman’s production lagged, too, despite throwing for a
career-best 3,592 yards.
The 2009 first-round draft pick threw for 25 touchdowns with
just six interceptions while pacing a 10-6 finish in 2010. A year
ago, he tossed 22 interceptions compared to 16 TD passes.
Sullivan and Turner have been working with the quarterback to
improve his footwork and decision-making.
”At times, perhaps Josh may have been trying to do a little bit
too much. I think he’s a very competitive young man,” Sullivan
said. ”He’s a very talented player, and coach Turner’s done a
phenomenal job with him this spring honing in on some specific
fundamentals and some of his mechanics.
”We’ve talked about decision-making and the importance of it
within our scheme. … The bottom line is we can’t score if we
don’t have the football,” Sullivan said. ”I know that’s an over
simplification, but more games are lost than are won because people
are giving away opportunities.”
Sullivan joined Schiano’s staff from the New York Giants, where
he worked closely with Eli Manning as quarterbacks coach. Turner
has been an offensive assistant with several NFL teams.
”I think physically, he’s done a great job this offseason,”
Turner said of Freeman, who’s dropped about 15 pounds this
offseason and looks trim and fit at about 238.
”And mentally, I think he’s hungry. He’s eager to learn what
we’re doing and what we’re teaching, and he wants to be good,”
Turner added. ”He wants to get better and he is really working at
it mentally and physically.”
From the day Freeman became the third quarterback selected in
the 2009 draft behind Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez, the Bucs
have stressed that everything they do – whether it be offensively
or defensively – is with ”5” in mind, referring to Freeman’s
uniform jersey number.
That hasn’t changed with Schiano replacing Morris and promising
to assemble a tough, physical offense that runs the ball, opening
up opportunities to throw the ball down the field.
”When you look at the teams that have been able to get to the
top of the mountain, they’ve had great quarterback play,” Sullivan
said. ”It comes down to the player making good decisions, that
player being accurate when it comes to throwing the football, it
comes down to having leadership.”