Bucs QB Freeman faces stiff test vs. Saints secondary
The Saints -- this weekend's Bucs opponent -- have not been known for their defensive prowess in recent years, their high-octane offense typically overshadowing its counterpart.
The New Orleans defense isn't necessarily overpowering opponents, but it is getting stops when necessary, something that has helped the Saints remain undefeated. One reason for that is the secondary, which is much improved over the units that were regularly torched in recent seasons.
The Saints lead the NFL in interceptions, which tells us two things: They are making quarterbacks throw under duress and they have some opportunistic players in the secondary. For both of those reasons, Bucs rookie QB Josh Freeman is going to have to be sharp on Sunday. He is going to have to feel the pass rush better than he did against the Dolphins. He also needs to be smart about when he can and can't take chances at squeezing throws into tight spaces.
The good news is that Freeman is smart and he's accurate. The bad news is the Saints have S Darren Sharper, whose seven interceptions rank second in the NFL. CB Jabari Greer, a former Buffalo Bill, was also a good addition. And it can't be overstated what a difference the hiring of aggressive coordinator Gregg Williams has made.
The Bucs' own pass defense has been showing slight improvement. It is ranked 15th in the league in yards allowed, and Tampa Bay's 59.9 percent opponent completion rate is actually better than that of the Ravens and Cowboys. Still, the secondary still has its work cut out for it against New Orleans QB Drew Brees.
Perhaps the more revealing matchup is that of Freeman against a secondary that will test him like few others.