Last year, Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman threw 25 touchdown passes and only six interceptions. This year, he has seven touchdowns and 10 picks through seven games.
The Bucs are on their bye, and they’re trying to improve Freeman’s performance. To the likely delight of their upcoming opponents, they’re also telling the world what they’ll be doing.
According to the folks at PewterReport.com, Freeman and a couple of his coaches spoke to reporters on Wednesday about the perceived causes of the problems and the intended solutions.
First, Freeman has been throwing too often from his back foot, without stepping into his throws. Second, Freeman has been unable to find running lanes when pressured.
“I’m not the fastest guy in the world,” Freeman said. “If I have an open running lane then I’m going to run the ball. I’ve not had a chance to get out. The one time I tried to scramble versus the Bears I got run down by an end and ended up having to throw it away. It’s a part that if it’s there to do and we can do something with it, then I am going to do it. But the lanes just haven’t been there.”
The lanes haven’t been there because opponents have tried to take them away. “They’re running some stunts and different things underneath that really take away the rush lanes for the quarterback,” Freeman said. “Also they’ve spied me a little bit and it’s by design and that’s how the league is. You do something successfully and the defense is going to start to do stuff to take it away.”
Coach Raheem Morris also thinks Freeman has been forcing it at times. “Last year he simply did a better job of going through his progressions throughout the whole process,” Morris said. “Right now he’s probably playing his number in fantasy football because he’s trying to throw touchdowns. Sometimes it’s okay to throw to check-downs; sometimes it’s okay to go through your progressions. Right now he has a little too much confidence in what he’s doing with his arm and forcing some things in there. We’re in a game and we threw four interceptions. If we don’t throw some of those interceptions we’ve got a chance to win it.”
Freeman’s struggles are typical to many young quarterbacks who enjoy early success. Whether it’s Freeman or Matthew Stafford or Sam Bradford, defenses come up with ways to confound them by cracking the code to their strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies on film.
That’s what makes the largely overlooked 2011 performance of Aaron Rodgers even more impressive. In his fourth season as a starter, defenses have ample ammunition to figure out how to shut him down. And they can’t.