Bucs looking to minimize hits on Josh Freeman
All around the NFL, the headlines offer numerous examples of something no team wants: An injured starting quarterback.
With the likes of Michael Vick, Jay Cutler and Ben Roethlisberger nursing injuries, the Bucs know it’s unsustainable for QB Josh Freeman to take as many hits as he did on Sunday at Carolina.
How to fix it?
The Bucs plan a multi-layered approach involving the offensive line, Freeman and coaching. Regarding the offensive line, the Bucs attributed its underperformance, in part, to a good game by the Panthers defensive line.
“There is no question we need to make sure we’re shoring some things up,” offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. “I’ll give credit to their defensive line. That is a very talented, very well-coached front four. Then you look at other games and it shows up. We thought they were going to be good, but they were even better.”
Sullivan said he and his staff will consider some adjustments to mitigate protection issues.
“There are things we can do as far as moving the launch point, getting some quicker, rhythm-type throws, doing things in rhythm so he can get the ball out faster,” Sullivan said of Freeman. “I really think it’s a combination of things from a protection standpoint, executing a little bit better up front, and then when you’re facing a tough group like that, it’s going to be a challenge.”
But if and when Freeman is faced with absorbing contact, there’s little doubt at One Buc Place he can take it.
Freeman stood in the pocket and took a head-on hit on the game-tying touchdown against the Panthers, never flinching in the face of the pressure. It was one of many instances where he took hits.
“You’re talking about a guy who is tough as nails with his ability to hang in there and still maintain the downfield focus, his vision on the receiver,” Sullivan said. “He’s not a happy-feet guy. He’s not a guy who is turning away (from the hit). He’s a face in the fan guy. He’s a tough guy. No doubt about that. If there are any doubts about his level of toughness, you put that tape on.”
It's just what he does, Freeman said.
“I have a job to do,” he said. “Regardless of what’s happening around me, I have to do my best to execute my job.
“Whether that’s standing in the pocket or scrambling or whatever it might be, I try to maximize what our offense can do with the ball.”