Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Josh Freeman working to improve red zone offense

TAMPA — QB Josh Freeman has made a lot of improvement in his second year, but there is room for more, such as scoring touchdowns from the red zone.

The Bucs have scored only three touchdowns in nine trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line, a 33 percent touchdown efficiency rate that ranks 26th in the league.

That figure is a bit skewed. The Bucs have kicked three field goals in the red zone, turned the ball over twice and had a kneel-down to end a game: RB Earnest Graham lost a fumble in the opener against the Browns, and later the team took a knee to end the game. Last week, Freeman had a pass bounce off WR Sammie Stroughter's hands and Steelers DE Brett Keisel returned the interception 79 yards for a score.

Freeman said the Bucs could be more aggressive, but the idea this season is to cut down on turnovers.

"No doubt, but at the same time it's a fine line between being aggressive and too aggressive," Freeman said. "We've got to go down there and understand that field goals every possession don't win games in this league. You've got to go down, you've got to get in the red zone, you've got to capitalize on your long drives, and that's definitely been an emphasis, and we'll get better at that number as this season continues."

According to Freeman, the Bucs have been seeing a lot of zone coverage in the red zone.

Coach Raheem Morris defended Freeman's cautious approach.

"I think down in the red zone, it's either touchdowns or check downs," Morris said. "You don't want to take points off the scoreboard. We maybe learned that mistake in Carolina the hard way. I think Free has done a great job of managing that. You'd like to eliminate some things that have happened a couple times we've been down there. We fumbled a snap on one of them. We actually fumbled a ball and gave it back to them on a carry down there I can remember a couple weeks ago. If you eliminate those plays and make either three or get seven points out of it because you don't have those plays that hurt you, then you start to feel better about your red zone offense.

"You've got to eliminate the turnovers. Then it's either touchdown or check down, take your three and be able to get out of there. People are going to challenge us a little bit more because we have a young quarterback. Some of those situations, Free has been able to exploit that, and he's got to get better … as he continues to develop and continues to grow."

Tight ends Kellen Winslow and Jerramy Stevens are expected to be big red zone weapons for Freeman. But offensive coordinator Greg Olson said a lack of execution has been a problem.

"We had twice where we had two tight ends," Olson said. "We had Jerramy in and Kellen in. The play was designed so we had a number of different options. We had Jerramy Stevens on a fade route. I thought we were going to get man (coverage), but we didn't get it. We had Kellen on (another play) and we overshot him. That was another opportunity there. We've got to make that throw because Kellen will make that catch for us. It is more about execution right now."

INJURIES: WR Mike Williams (ankle) and Winslow (knee) did not practice Wednesday as a precaution.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Josh Freeman working to improve red zone offense 09/29/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 11:45pm]

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