Make us your home page

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, coordinator Mike Sullivan work on improving offense

TAMPA — The state of the Bucs offense took center stage Thursday, offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan and quarterback Josh Freeman peppered with questions from reporters hoping to diagnose the problems.

The symptoms:

• 243.7 yards per game, last in the league entering Thursday.

• 4.3 yards per play, last in the league.

• 149 passing yards per game, 30th in the league.

• 94.7 rushing yards per game, 21st in the league.

The cause — performance, play-calling or philosophy — depends on your perspective.

As for the remedy, one consistent answer emerged: patience.

"It's a long season," said Sullivan, the first-year play-caller.

"It's not how we are in September. It's where we're going to be in November and December. We have a sense of urgency. But I just think that the good news is — having had firsthand experience — it's about where you're at as you continue to move forward."

Freeman echoed those sentiments: "Like anything, there's going to be a learning curve. We're not as good now as we're going to be."

So it falls on Sullivan and coach Greg Schiano to find a solution.

A possible one is being more aggressive.

Asked about a series of first-down, between-the-tackles running plays during Sunday's loss to the Cowboys, Sullivan said coaches are taking a second look at some of their in-game decisions. But the Bucs, for better or worse, are adamant about sticking to their principles.

"There's always going to be concerns about keeping (the defense) on their toes and yet at the same time establish a mind-set for time of possession," Sullivan said.

"Certainly when there are opportunities to take your shots and do some things down the field, we've got to be able to do that. As we establish who we are and what our tendencies are, it falls upon us as coaches to identify those areas where maybe we're being too predictable."

Time of possession is a point of emphasis for the defensive-minded Schiano. Perhaps that accounts for the Bucs' persistence in running the ball against a Cowboys front that limited it to 3 yards per carry. The ensuing inability to convert third downs — the Bucs were last in the league there, too, at 25.6 percent — translated to the Giants and Cowboys holding the ball 6:58 and 6:08 longer than the Bucs in the past two weeks, respectively.

It's clear the Bucs still believe Freeman, in his fourth season, can pull them out of this morass. The quarterback had one of the poorest games of his career in Dallas, going 10-of-28. But the Bucs might consider playing more to his strengths, including throwing on the run.

"I think there's definitely merit to having him on the perimeter and changing the launch point," Sullivan said.

Schiano seemed less enthusiastic about getting Freeman out of the pocket even though he's among the more athletic quarterbacks in the league.

"Every time he leaves the pocket and takes off to run — unless you slide effectively — you risk injury," Schiano said. "And that's the fear. So as long as we (slide), then I'm good with it. The minute we start spinning and hurdling and all that stuff, then I'm not good with it."

Regardless, Sullivan rejected the idea that Freeman is a "caretaker" of the offense rather than capable of making big plays: "His job is to lead this offense."

Freeman, who said Sunday's game plan against Washington includes exciting new elements, believes he's up to the task.

"I think it's a great offense," he said. "As far as me being handcuffed, no chance. We call plays with shots built in and a lot of opportunities. Going out with the mentality of playing ball-secure football, you might not take as many shots down the field.

"But when we get one-on-one coverage, (we'll take it). I feel like this offense is going to be a great opportunity for me to showcase my ability."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman, coordinator Mike Sullivan work on improving offense 09/27/12 [Last modified: Thursday, September 27, 2012 10:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Aaron Hernandez had severe CTE; daughter sues NFL, Patriots


    BOSTON — Tests conducted on the brain of former football star Aaron Hernandez showed severe signs of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and his attorney said Thursday that the player's daughter is suing the NFL and the New England Patriots for leading Hernandez to believe the sport …

    Aaron Hernandez's lawyer says the former New England Patriots tight end's brain showed severe signs of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy. [AP photo]
  2. Bucs' Josh Robinson excited for return to Vikings


    For much of Josh Robinson's four seasons with the Vikings, there was excitement leading up to the arrival of the $1.1-billion U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened last season, just as Robinson signed with the …

    Josh Robinson (26) tackles Chicago punt returner Eddie Royal (19) during a game between the Bucs and Bears in 2016. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  3. For starters: Rays at Orioles, meeting up with ex-mate Tim Beckham


    The Rays open their final roadtrip of the season tonight in Baltimore, and - continuing the theme of the week - willl cross paths with another familiar face, INF Tim Beckham.

    Tim Beckham made a smashing debut with the Orioles, hitting .394 with six homers and 19 RBIs in August.
  4. From the archives: Account of famed Riggs-King match heightens Tampa mob intrigue


    With the Sept. 29 opening of "Battle of the Sexes" — the movie starring Emma Stone and Steve Carrell about Billie Jean King's landmark 1973 tennis win over Bobby Riggs — we thought there might be renewed interest in this 2013 Peter Jamison story from the Tampa Bay Times.

    Emma Stone as Billie Jean King and Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs in "Battle of the Sexes."  [Melinda Sue Gordon, Fox Searchlight Pictures]
  5. It's not a game, but the names are all the same in this football family


    TAMPA — A coach yells across the field into a scrum of blue-and-white clad football bodies at Jefferson High: "Kim Mitchell! Kim Mitchell, come here!"

    These twins are not only identical, but they have almost identical names. Kim Mitchell III, left, and Kim Mitchell IV are  talented football players at Jefferson High with Division I-A college offers. Kim  III wears No. 22 and plays cornerback while Kim IV wears No. 11 and plays safety. (Scott Purks, Special to the Times)