Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman was one of the NFL’s most disappointing players in 2011. But the Bucs aren’t sweating it.
Although Freeman got worse statistically from 2010 to 2011 in yards per pass (from 7.3 to 6.5), in touchdown passes (from 25 to 16), in interceptions (from six to 22) and in passer rating (from 95.9 to 74.6), Bucs General Manager Mark Dominik told the Tampa Bay Times that there’s a good reason to believe that the 2012 version of Freeman will look a lot more like the quarterback we saw in 2010 than the one we saw in 2011.
That reason, Dominik says, is that this year Freeman will have a full offseason of work. Last year, during the lockout, Freeman missed out on four months of coaching that he otherwise would have had.
“A lot of the second-year [starting] quarterbacks didn’t play their best ball last year,” Dominik said recently. “Maybe guys like [Rams quarterback Sam] Bradford didn’t play their best ball and [Jets quarterback Mark] Sanchez. Certainly Josh. I think it did have an effect on the younger quarterbacks in our league. But now it’s in the past, and it’s what you do going forward.”
There may be some truth to the idea that Freeman, Bradford and Sanchez struggled because the lockout cost them valuable offseason work, but there were also young quarterbacks who thrived despite the lockout: Matthew Stafford was drafted in the same first round as Freeman and Sanchez, and Stafford had 5,000-yard season in 2011. And rookie quarterbacks Cam Newton and Andy Dalton both looked fine without an offseason.
The Bucs have made some big moves in free agency and may be a team poised to take a step forward this year. But only if Freeman reverses the big step backward he took last year.