Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman already showing signs of progress

Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, fending off the Dolphins’ Channing Crowder during the first quarter, completes all four of his passes and finishes with a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, fending off the Dolphins’ Channing Crowder during the first quarter, completes all four of his passes and finishes with a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating.

MIAMI

Here at the start, you wanted to see progress. You wanted to see presence. You wanted to see poise.

Perfection? That seemed like too much to ask.

And, my, hasn't Josh Freeman been doing his homework?

The first results of Freeman's offseason work were on display Saturday when he showed up at Sun Life Stadium as a more polished, more precise quarterback. True, it was only one of those glorified practices the NFL calls preseason games and, true, it was only a brief night of work. True, drawing too much optimism from a practice test is premature.

On the other hand, is there a bad time to play well?

One night, and it appears the Bucs' favorite son is growing up. Freeman threw four passes, and he completed four passes. He looked comfortable in the huddle, decisive in the pocket, efficient on the move. Most of all, he looked about five years ahead of last year.

"I feel completely different," Freeman said. "Last year in my first game, I was thinking, 'Wow, I'm playing against the Tennessee Titans.' This year, it was, 'All right, the first-team offense has some things we want to accomplish.' "

For two series, for a dozen snaps, Freeman played as well as you would have hoped. On a sloppy night and a swampy field with "a layer of mud between the ball and my hand," Freeman was the smoothest thing in the stadium. If nothing else, there were clues that he has come a long way toward answering his biggest questions.

Accuracy? Did you see Freeman's soft-touch pass down the right sideline for 30 yards to rookie Mike Williams? It was a nice throw, as fluid as a man tossing a wad of paper into a wastebasket. It was a throw you would not have expected from Freeman a year ago when he was busy throwing 18 interceptions in nine starts as a rookie.

"I think I could have thrown it," Freeman said. "But if I throw that pass 10 times in a row, I'm going to hit it a lot more times this year."

Patience? Did you see Freeman buy time before his 13-yard touchdown pass to Sammie Stroughter? Twice before, Freeman had broken the pocket and run for short gains. But this time, he read the coverage, and he waited, and then he flicked the ball to his left to Stroughter, who cut sharply and ran into the end zone. Freeman could have made that throw a year ago, but could he have made that read? Maybe not.

"They covered it well at first," Freeman said. "I was able to get the corner to think I was throwing it to (Michael) Clayton. My next read was to throw it out of bounds."

In other words, Freeman was so good against the Dolphins that he left you wanting more.

If there was a quibble to be made, that was it. Freeman still needs as much work as any quarterback in the league, especially given the youth of his receivers, and his night was so short.

Think of it like this: Of the six preseason games played before Saturday night, all 12 of the starting quarterbacks threw more times than Freeman, and none of them took fewer snaps. The Saints' Drew Brees took 26 snaps, for instance, in his preseason opener. The Eagles' Kevin Kolb took 27.

Given the weather, given his results, however, it's hard to argue with the Bucs getting Freeman out of the game. Admit this: If Freeman had been injured in his third series, you would have wondered what in the world he was doing out there. Of course you would have.

As it was, Freeman played enough for you to see why he has spent so much time watching film and working out during the offseason. There were even times when his coaches told him to slow it down before he pushed his body too hard.

Still, quarterbacks get better in the offseason, particularly in that offseason between his rookie year and his sequel. And it was nice to see a few suggestions that Freeman will be better this year.

Do you remember Freeman a year ago? In his first game against the Titans, he looked like a man standing in the middle of the interstate as he tried to figure out how he got there and how he might get away without hurting himself. He hit only 5 of 12 passes against the Titans. For the entire preseason, Freeman had a quarterback rating of 41.0. (Against the Dolphins, Freeman had a rating of 158.3, the highest possible.)

By comparison, Freeman looked older, more polished on Saturday night. He looked in control.

In the weeks ahead, the real tests will begin. Freeman is still only 22, and he has only nine career starts. There will be stumbles along the way. He is going to have to prove he's accurate enough, efficient enough and resilient enough to make you think the offense — and the quarterback — will be better than expected.

After Saturday night, however, it doesn't seem like too much to ask.

Odds are, you think more of Freeman today than you did a couple of days ago.

As preseason games go, that's a good way to start.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman already showing signs of progress 08/14/10 [Last modified: Saturday, August 14, 2010 11:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays add another piece to bullpen, acquiring Steve Cishek for Erasmo Ramirez

    Blogs

    The Rays made another deal to change the look of their bullpen, acquiring RHP Steve Cishek from the Mariners for RHP Erasmo Ramirez.

    Cishek, 31, has a 3,15 ERA in 20 games for the Mariners this season after returning in mid-May from off-season hip surgery, and a 2.83 ERA over parts of eight with the Marlins, …

  2. Why don't defensive players get more Heisman Trophy love?

    Blogs

    In a story we posted online earlier today (and coming to your doorstep in Sunday's Tampa Bay Times), I made my case for why Florida State safety Derwin James should be a preseason …

    Boston College defensive end Harold Landry didn't get any Heisman love last year, despite leading the country in sacks.
  3. On the defensive: Heisman history not in Derwin James' favor

    College

    The lowdown on Derwin James? "No offense to (Michigan's Jabrill) Peppers (a Heisman finalist last year)," ESPN analyst Rex Ryan says, "but he only wished he was the player this kid was." (Monica Herndon, Times)
  4. Kevin Kiermaier: Return to action Thursday 'didn't set the world on fire'

    The Heater

    Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier's return from the hip injury that sidelined him since June 8 could have gone better Thursday in Port Charlotte. He broke two bats and went hitless in two at bats while playing for the Class A Charlotte Stone Crabs.

    Kevin Kiermaier takes cuts in the cage during batting practice before the game between the Rays and Texas Rangers Saturday at Tropicana Field. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  5. Live updates, what you need to know about Bucs training camp (w/photos, video)

    Bucs

    Bucs training camp is here.

    This morning was the first of 13 practices that are free and open to the general public, so we have all the details to answer your questions about where and when and so on.

    Dirk Koetter is nothing if not precise, with practices starting at 8:45 a.m. and running until 10:27. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]