Cardinals-Buccaneers Preview

BY foxsports • September 25, 2013

One day after another lackluster offensive performance contributed to his team dropping to 0-3, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano gave a strong vote of confidence to struggling quarterback Josh Freeman.

"Josh is our starter," Schiano said Monday.

It didn't take long for him to change his mind.

Rookie Mike Glennon will make his first start Sunday as the Bucs host the Arizona Cardinals, who have been hit hard by a rash of injuries.

Freeman, selected with the 17th overall pick in 2009, had been Tampa Bay's quarterback since making his first start in the eighth game of his rookie season after the team got off to an 0-7 start. He threw for career highs of 4,065 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2012 as the Buccaneers set a franchise record with 389 points.

His struggles this season, though, have contributed to the team's worst start since Freeman was given the job. He finished 19 of 41 for 236 yards and an interception in last week's 23-3 loss to New England, and he's completed an NFL-low 45.7 percent of his passes for two touchdowns and three picks with a league-worst 59.3 passer rating.

The Bucs' three offensive touchdowns are tied with Jacksonville for fewest in the league, and Schiano said he met with ownership Tuesday to discuss the possible change. He informed Freeman and Glennon before meeting with the entire team Wednesday.

"Any time you work hard with somebody, it's a tough decision," Schiano said. "We feel Mike gives us the best chance to win on Sunday."

There's been some friction off the field with Freeman, who is in the final year of his contract. He claims to have overslept for a team photo Labor Day, then wasn't elected a team captain by his teammates days later for the first time since his rookie year.

Though Schiano denied a report he rigged the voting process, he's now set to take away Freeman's starting job. Glennon was drafted in the third round and was the third quarterback selected behind Buffalo's EJ Manuel and the New York Jets' Geno Smith.

"We felt, at this time, Mike Glennon gives us the best chance to win," Schiano said. "We believe this was the best thing to do for our football team."

Schiano wants Glennon to start this game in order to give the club two weeks to evaluate his performance before facing Philadelphia on Oct. 13. The Bucs have a bye next week, but he said that wasn't the main reason behind making the decision now.

Glennon, who backed up Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson at North Carolina State before throwing for 62 touchdowns over his junior and senior seasons, will be tasked with helping improve an offense that ranks 29th in the league with an average of 282.0 yards per game.

"Mike is a smart, tough football player who loves the game," Schiano said. "He's not going to be perfect, but he's going to do his best to do what the coaching staff tells him to do."

No matter the team's struggles, safety Mark Barron doesn't believe the Bucs have lost confidence.

"To be 0-3, it bothers me a little bit, but I'm fine. We'll bounce back as a team," said Barron, who had an interception last week. "We just have to put it all together. As long as we come out and execute and everybody's on the same page, then we have the players to make whatever play needs to be made. We believe in the scheme, so we've just got to come out and execute."

Leading receiver Vincent Jackson is dealing with a rib injury and will be monitored throughout the week to determine his status, but Arizona (1-2) is dealing with much more significant setbacks after falling 31-7 to New Orleans last Sunday.

It played without nose tackle Dan Williams after his father was killed in a car wreck on his way to the game, then three linebackers were lost for the season after suffering injuries. Sam Acho broke his leg, Lorenzo Alexander has a foot injury and rookie Alex Okafor suffered a torn biceps.

Adding to the list, safety Rashad Johnson lost the tip of his left middle finger and missed the second half before having surgery, though there's a chance he could play this week.

Darnell Dockett, who had three sacks to double his total from last season, said the team needs to remain positive.

"The only bad thing is we can't go 15-1," Dockett said. "A lot of football left. No one should feel sorry for themselves. Sometimes it takes a good loss like this to re-evaluate yourself."

The Cardinals started well last week as Alfonso Smith's TD run capped an 11-play drive that gained 75 yards, but they had only 172 yards of total offense after that. Arizona punted eight straight times following its initial drive before Carson Palmer was intercepted on its final two possessions.

Palmer's 72.3 passer rating is 26th in the NFL, and he's thrown three touchdowns and four picks for a Cardinals offense that ranks 23rd with an average of 328.3 yards per game.

"We did too many things to shoot ourselves in the foot," guard Daryn Colledge said. "You can't play football like that on the road."

Larry Fitzgerald, who had five catches for 64 yards last week, caught two touchdown passes in the last meeting with Tampa Bay, but Freeman threw for 278 yards and a score in the Bucs' 38-35 road win Oct. 31, 2010.

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