Tampa Bay Lives and Dies with Freeman in 2012
Josh Freeman looked like he was on his way to be a great quarterback after a 2010 season in which he completed 61% of his passes for 25 touchdowns, and six interceptions for 3,815 total yards. However last season he slumped throwing more interceptions than touchdowns even though he completed more passes, and ran for more touchdowns. He’s hoping to get back on track in 2012 under new coaches Greg Shiano, offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan from the Giants, and Ben McDaniels who was last with the Broncos in 2010.
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Josh Freeman has the abilities to be a great quarterback, we’ve all seen how the team has responded to him. He is at the very least as good as the guys he replaced and has every chance to be better, if not one of the elite in the league in a year or two. IF the team manages to continue to build talent around him like they did this season, and if they remain committed to him like they have so far.
This offseason they addressed the offense early and aggressively resigning OG Jeremy Zuttah and franchising Connor Barth just 8 days before signing Vincent Jackson to a 5 year contract. Quickly signing CB Eric Wright, QB Dan Orlovsky, OG Carl Nicks, OT Jamon Meridith and resigned CB Ronde Barber, and DE Michael Bennett.
The Buccaneers have never quite given him the tools he has now. They signed key pieces to this offense as well as added players through the draft. They also managed to resign players that they couldn’t manage to lose all the while building an attitude around the building that says we want to win early and often. They believe they are a playoff team and aren’t counting getting the rebuilding excuse this season.
The offense last season ranked 21st overall, 16th in passing, and 30th in run game.
To Help out Freeman in the passing game they signed Vincent Jackson a legitimate number one receiver, who will take pressure off of Mike Williams who will start opposite of Jackson. The team traded away Kellen Winslow and signed Dallas Clark who is expected to bring a bit more consistency to the tight end position. The best part about adding Jackson is the competition it now makes for the 3rd receiver spot this preseason. Preston Parker caught 40 passes for 554 yards and 3 tds last season, while Arrelious Benn caught 30 passes for 441 yards and 3 touchdowns, while Dezmon Briscoe caught 35 passes for 387 yards and 6 touchdowns. If you look at it like this you have Parker who caught the most passes, Briscoe who caught the most touchdowns, and Benn who averaged the most yards per catch. All of a sudden this offense looks pretty deep at receiver where as last season no one was scared of them. Wallace Wright a 5 year veteran and Tiquan Underwood are also in the mix both special teams stars with their former teams. At tight end they also drafted Drake Dunsmore in the 7th round out from Northwestern he is a guy who has the athletic ability and size to play a position in this offense much like Chris Cooley, or even Dallas Clark who he will be learning from. This guy posted up impressive numbers in the combine with a 4.6 40 yard dash, 21 bench press reps, and 35.5 inch vertical jump. He will have stiff competition for time with Luke Stocker, Zack Pianalto, Danny Noble, Colin Franklin, and even veteran Chase Coffman. The Buccaneers will likely keep 3 tight ends, but if Dunsmore can prove he can play consistently out of the h-back position and provide lead blocking on run plays at times he will likely be a target Freeman will come to love out of the backfield. With improvements to the passing game they still managed to address the run game as well.
With their 2nd first round selection they drafted Doug Martin who is regarded as one of the top running backs coming out in the draft this year. He is someone who can take some carries off of LaGarrette Blount who they resigned and also push him for time as well. They selected another running back in the draft Michael Smith in the 7th round. He is a solid running back but was used in a three man rotation which hurt his stock in the draft, however in the 7th round he should prove to be a steal. He is one of the faster running backs and more of a 3rd down type back. He should see some carries early and if he see’s success he will be worked into the offense. My concern with this run game is it’s lack of a true lead blocker/fullback. The last couple seasons Earnest Graham has been a running back placed at fullback but made the best of it, it’s time they shift to more of a traditional fullback however. I believe the new staff recognizes that because Earnest Graham has yet to be resigned but they signed Cody Johnson more of a true fullback and are expected to use more two tight end sets as well as Clark and Dunsmore in the H-back spot.
As if the additions to the run and pass game weren’t enough the coaching staff also made it known the offensive line wasn’t set in their minds bringing in Guard Carl Nicks a 3 year starter with the rival Saints, resigning guard Jeremy Zuttah who may move to tackle if Nicks starts at guard opposite 6 year veteran Davin Joesph. Center Ted Larsen looks to start if one of the guards doesn’t make the move to center, however Larsen has over 10 starts in 2 seasons with the team behind him. They resigned tackle Demar Dotson, and signed T Jamon Meredith. T Donald Penn returns this season to start as well. My guy to watch is undrafted free agent Jermarcus Hardrick, he was a junior college transfer to Nebraska after starting every game in 2009 with Fort Scott CC, he played in 27 games with Nebraska and started 13 establishing himself as a solid left tackle his senior season. He has an impressive record with schools that won a lot of games during his time and that should be accounted for, oh yeah did I mention he is 6′7 320?
Long Story short I like the moves this team has made to build around a franchise quarterback. Josh Freeman is no doubt going to be a good quarterback in this league it really is only a matter of time. He should excell with the line-up he has now.