October 26, 2011
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are above .500 and just one game out of first place in the NFC South, but their season so far has been a little up and down.
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In Week 5, they lost by 45. In Week 6, they bounced back to beat the New Orleans Saints. In Week 7, they lost a supremely ugly game to the Bears. One of the biggest reasons for this inconsistency? Josh Freeman's(notes) newfound proclivity for interceptions. He's thrown oodles of them this year, and as a result, the Bucs aren't letting him do much passing on routes beyond 5 or 6 yards. From tampabay.com:
For those fans who often ask why offensive coordinator Greg Olson doesn't dial up more deep shots and take the reigns [sic] off Freeman, I think the answer is right in front of you. Olson doesn't have complete trust in Freeman because he continues to make ill-advised throws. The good news? He's just 23 and has been a starter for less than two years, so none of this has to define Freeman.
No, it certainly doesn't define him, but it is a bit of a concern. Last year, Freeman threw just six interceptions all season, and averaged 7.3 yards per passing attempt. This year, he's already tossed 10 interceptions through just seven games (which leads the league), and his yards per attempt is down to 6.4. For comparison's sake, Eli Manning(notes), Tom Brady(notes) and Aaron Rodgers(notes) are all above 9 yards per attempt. Freeman's 6.4 places him right between Matt Cassel(notes) and Tarvaris Jackson(notes).
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A big part of this is that defenses are paying way more attention to Freeman now, have had more time to get accustomed to his tendencies and they're making things harder for him. He only started nine games in his rookie year and wasn't very good. Last year, he came on and did some damage in the NFC South, and that got him some attention. Now he's got a reputation, and he'll have to adjust again.
And he will. He's young, he's smart and he's well-coached. A few years from now, we'll look back at this stretch as but a hiccup. If he can't do it quickly, though, the Bucs are looking at another year on the wrong side of the playoffs.
Gracias, Joe Bucs Fan.
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