Bucs' Josh Freeman looks in the mirror to overcome recent struggles
Let’s get one thing straight: Josh Freeman is the Bucs’ quarterback, not only today but for the foreseeable future.
That does not, however, mean he is without flaws. Sunday’s tape of the loss to the Eagles is Exhibit A. And no one is more aware of that than Freeman.
Typically staid and unspecific in speaking about his performance, an introspective Freeman this afternoon seemed dissatisfied with his play, understanding his combined 44 percent completion rate during the past two games is unacceptable.
“When you throw the ball down the field, it’s going to be tough sometimes,” said Freeman, who completed only 14 of his 34 attempts against Philadelphia. “But they are definitely throws I can make. In practice, we’re continuing to work on those to develop more and more consistency down the field. You have to put it on yourself. You have to say, ‘What can I do to get better? What can I do to be more consistent as a quarterback, throwing the ball and getting the ball into my playmakers’ hands?’
“That’s what I’ve been doing, watching each throw and watching footwork. What allowed me to stand in there and make this throw versus this other throw? I really go down to the core level and see exactly what you can do to get better.”
Freeman’s coaches are not tolerant of Freeman’s recent issues, but they also have made it known they’re not going to overreact. With one season remaining on his rookie contract, Freeman and the Bucs are expected to discuss a long-term extension in the offseason. Nothing in the past couple of weeks seems to have changed internal opinions about the 24-year old passer who is on pace to register career highs in passing yards and touchdowns passes.
But consistency is a keyword at One Buc Place right now.
“I think the entire year has in a lot of ways been a bit of a roller coaster,” offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. “But I think he continues to move onward and upward.”
Coach Greg Schiano remains unwavering in his support and expectations of Freeman.
“I think he didn’t play his best game (against the Eagles), but I think he’s built equity in our offense and in what he can do,” Schiano said. “He just needs to come back and play another game and play well. That’s what I fully anticipate he’s going to do.”
Freeman’s biggest issues are with his accuracy. His 54.7 completion percentage ranks 34th in the NFL, though he is ranked much higher in a number of other categories (fifth in TD passes, seventh in yards per attempt).
The Bucs’ propensity for throwing deep balls, which are low-percentage attempts, skews the numbers a bit. But it’s got to be better, and Freeman is not shying away.
“Part of it is some throws are higher percentage than others,” he said. “. . . It’s something you definitely want to improve on. You want to be in the upper echelon of the league as far as completion percentage.”