Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Learning an offense takes time for Tampa Bay Buccaneers

TAMPA — The pocket collapsed on Josh Freeman's ascent as one of the game's best young quarterbacks last season.

But the 24-year-old doesn't fear failure the way a lot of passers do. Armed with a new system under offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, the former Giants quarterback coach, and surrounded by better talent, the 2009 first-round pick out of Kansas State should take aim at a bounceback year for the Bucs.

Or could everybody be making the wrong read here?

The thing to remember as the Bucs host the Patriots in a preseason game tonight, likely the final dress rehearsal for starters until the Sept. 9 regular-season opener against Carolina, is Freeman and his receivers have had to unlearn one offensive system while trying to master another.

"There are differences; a lot of similarities," coach Greg Schiano said. "I mean, there are only 11 guys. You can only position them in so many different ways. But there are some things we do that (Freeman has) never been exposed to, and there are some things he used to do that we don't do."

Since his rookie season, when Greg Olson took over as offensive coordinator from Jeff Jagodzinski 10 days before the first game, Freeman and the Bucs have operated a Bill Walsh-style west coast attack. Routes are given names instead of identified by numbers.

For Freeman and his offensive teammates, it's like learning a new language.

"I was in the same system with Minnesota under (offensive coordinator) Brian Billick for seven years, so I kind of knew it like the back of my hand," former Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson said. "Then you go to a new system. A play might be called 'Two Jet X dagger Y shallow cross.' And now you're calling it '748 Y drag.' I mean, what is that?

"They've had an offseason to learn the system. That's what we did under (Jon) Gruden. You bought into the system. You had time to practice through the (offseason workouts) and training camp. The hardest part with Josh will be sometimes you have to forget your old systems."

But the biggest change might be in the way Freeman goes through his progressions. By most accounts, Sullivan's system includes post-snap route adjustments based on what the defense does.

"Surely, there's a lot of stuff in this offense that is on-the-fly and conversion-type of stuff," Bucs backup quarterback Dan Orlov­sky said.

Receivers and quarterbacks have to be on the same page in any offense. But at times for the Bucs this season, it might look as though they're not working from the same playbook.

"In this system, they probably put a lot on the receivers to read the routes on the fly," Johnson said. "Is it a curl? Does it adjust to a corner route? Is it a hitch? Or does it convert to a fade? Is it a square-in? Does it convert to a square-in and go?

"You can take advantage of some defenses, but also there's a certain amount of trust that comes between the quarterback and the receivers. Sometimes, there may be mistakes, some interceptions. Your fault. My fault. And once they buy into it over time, it will be very successful."

Freeman was sharp in his only series against Miami in the first preseason game, going 4-of-5 for 41 yards in leading the Bucs to a touchdown. Last week against Tennessee, he was pressured and out of synch with his receivers, going 4-of-10 for 21 yards and a touchdown.

Freeman, as always, remains confident the Bucs will thrive in the new system.

"It's kind of different. You can't really compare the two," he said. "But at the same time, football is football. There are some similar concepts. In one offense, you have different reads. In the other offense, you have different reads.

"It's just a matter of learning the rules, trusting what you see and going out and executing."

But as Orlovsky reminded Freeman recently: "It's going to take time. It's not going to happen overnight."

Rick Stroud can be reached at [email protected] and heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620.

Comments
Bucs’ Lavonte David misses practice with hamstring injury

Bucs’ Lavonte David misses practice with hamstring injury

TAMPA — The Bucs knew they might be playing without DT Gerald McCoy, who suffered a biceps injury early in Sunday’s loss to the Lions. But now they face the prospect of playing Monday against Atlanta without another of their defensive leaders, as LB ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
USF’s Nigel Harris eager for chance with hometown Bucs

USF’s Nigel Harris eager for chance with hometown Bucs

When Nigel Harris chose where to play college football, he wanted to stay home in Tampa at USF. And now, after playing for the Chargers and Giants as an NFL rookie, he's grateful for the chance to again prove himself in Tampa as the newest member of ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
NFL Week 15: Tampa Bay Times staff picks

NFL Week 15: Tampa Bay Times staff picks

Week 15 starts and ends with disappointment — a Thursday night meeting of two of the more disappointing teams (Denver at Indianapolis) and a Monday night game that once had held high hopes locally (Atlanta at Tampa Bay). Once.Here's our picks f...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Measuring Jameis Winston’s progress, and Dirk Koetter’s job security

Measuring Jameis Winston’s progress, and Dirk Koetter’s job security

TAMPA — It is one of the most honest moments of the season, captured in the first Hard Knocks episode. Jameis Winston is having a frank conversation with coach Dirk Koetter, seated behind his desk in his office at One Buc Place."I just want to have a...
Published: 12/14/17
Jones: If you were Jon Gruden, what would you do?

Jones: If you were Jon Gruden, what would you do?

What would you do?If you were Jon Gruden, what would you do?Well, you could go to Hooter’s and order a pitcher of beer and dozen wings. Then, Monday, you could go be inducted into the Bucs’ Ring of Honor.I’m talking about after that.Would you stay i...
Published: 12/14/17
Rick and Tom podcast: Dirk Koetter, Evan Longoria, Stanley Cup and more

Rick and Tom podcast: Dirk Koetter, Evan Longoria, Stanley Cup and more

Rick Stroud and Tom Jones answer a lightning round of questions.
Published: 12/14/17
Bucs’ Mike Evans gives the gift of perspective

Bucs’ Mike Evans gives the gift of perspective

TAMPA — So, this is Christmas.The Bucs are having an awful season. There is no way around it. Star receiver Mike Evans isn’t having a great year, either, not nearly as many catches or touchdowns as last season, when he was selected for the Pro Bowl.S...
Published: 12/13/17
Warren Sapp on sexual harassment allegations: ‘Ain’t no #MeToo’

Warren Sapp on sexual harassment allegations: ‘Ain’t no #MeToo’

Warren Sapp vehemently denied allegations that he sexually harassed a female employee when he worked at the NFL Network during a radio appearance this afternoon in Miami."Ain’t no #MeToo," the former Buc and Pro Football Hall of Famer said on the And...
Published: 12/13/17
Cannon Fodder podcast: Gerald McCoy still wants to play

Cannon Fodder podcast: Gerald McCoy still wants to play

Greg Auman has an update in his latest podcast while the Bucs have two days off during the long week.
Published: 12/13/17
Rick and Tom podcast: Should the Rays go full fire-sale mode?

Rick and Tom podcast: Should the Rays go full fire-sale mode?

As baseball’s hot stove starts heating up, should the Rays go full fire sale to build for the future?In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones discuss whether the Rays should trade guys like Evan Longoria, Chris Archer, Alex Colome and more,...
Published: 12/13/17