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Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Josh Freeman's problems are fixable

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

It’s the bye week for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but that doesn’t mean all is quiet. In fact, the Bucs have made what might be the biggest discovery of the NFL season.

Check out this story by Eric Horchy. The Bucs think they’ve figured out why quarterback Josh Freeman has struggled to be consistent this season.

In short, they believe Freeman has been throwing off his back foot too often and not scrambling enough. Throwing off his back foot has come at times when Freeman has been backpedaling from pressure. That’s prevented him from stepping into throws.

“That’s human nature,’’ quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said. “That’s just the body protecting itself. When you get rattled early as a quarterback sometimes your feet get a little bit off. So it is just constantly reminding him during the course of the game to plant that back foot.’’

That reminder can prevent the first problem. The second one also is fixable.

“[Opposing defenses are] 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.”

Freeman’s big, strong and has decent speed. The Bucs don’t discourage him from running when the lanes are there. But the Bucs aren’t asking Freeman to suddenly turn into Cam Newton or Michael Vick and be a big part of their running game. They simply want him to use his scrambling ability to keep plays going a little longer and create more opportunities for good things to happen.

There has been one other troubling trend with Freeman. He’s already thrown 10 interceptions after throwing only six last year. The Bucs also think they’ve got a read on why that’s happening. Freeman’s talked before about how he might have too much confidence at times and coach Raheem Morris echoed that thought Wednesday.

“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 OK to throw to checkdowns; sometimes it’s OK 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.’’

The Bucs and Freeman have identified the problems and none of them appear to be anything dramatic. Now, it’s simply a matter of fixing the issues and getting Freeman -- and the offense -- back on track.