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 ready to accept growing pains at QB

Josh Freeman, center, with all of nine starts in the NFL, is the most experienced quarterback on the Bucs roster.

Associated Press

Josh Freeman, center, with all of nine starts in the NFL, is the most experienced quarterback on the Bucs roster.

TAMPA — Josh Freeman is 22 years old with nine NFL starts, which means he has more than twice as much experience as any other quarterback on the Bucs roster.

His backup, 24-year-old Josh Johnson, went 0-4 as a starter last season. Behind him is Rudy Carpenter, 24, and rookie Jevan Snead, 22, neither of whom has ever taken a snap in pro football.

Quarterbacks this young are usually bottle-fed information and burped for several years before an NFL coach will trust them with their future and 401(k)s.

But "an organizational" decision by general manager Mark Dominik and coach Raheem Morris has anointed Freeman as the franchise quarterback and Johnson as the only backup who has crossed the white lines in pro football.

"We're going to coach and play with the players we have here," offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. "That's an organizational decision, and we're all in this thing together. That's the direction the organization decided to go, so I'm comfortable with it. I have a lot of confidence in Josh Johnson. I have a lot of confidence in Josh Freeman. They're going to have to grow up maybe a little faster than maybe had they gone somewhere else."

It's instructive to note that Freeman and Johnson have each thrown twice as many interceptions as touchdown passes in their brief NFL careers.

But Johnson, who is entering his third season, said he greatly benefited from his experience as a starter last season.

"It gave me a realization of what it takes to win," said Johnson, who lost to the Redskins, Eagles, Panthers and Patriots (playing only Carolina in Tampa). "For me, there were so many things going through my head the time I was starting. But now, I've been out there and I know how to handle it and how to prepare myself.

"I understand the reality that as long as we have a chance to win the game at the end of the game, that will help you grow as a quarterback in this league."

A year ago at this time, Johnson and Freeman took virtually no reps with the first unit. They were on another end of the field like junior varsity players while the Bucs engaged in a pointless quarterback battle between Byron Leftwich and Luke McCown, who was traded to Jacksonville.

Now Josh-squared takes 90-95 percent of the reps. Olson believes in Johnson, who was forced to play without injured starting C Jeff Faine.

The hiring of Alex Van Pelt as quarterbacks coach negated the need to hire a veteran backup. Van Pelt played caddie to Joe Montana and Jim Kelly, among others, and can play the mentoring role.

"I think Josh (Johnson) definitely has the ability to be a starter in this league, and that's a goal of his, and it should be a goal of his," Olson said. "Lots of guys talk about, 'Is he accurate enough?' Yeah, I believe he's accurate enough. He needs more experience; he needs to take care of the ball better. But in terms of the accuracy and intelligence, the arrow is rising.

"A lot of people may say, 'What has he done to deserve it?' But I get a chance to see him every day and be with him in meetings, and I've witnessed his growth. I have the confidence in him, and I think the team has the confidence in him as opposed to bringing in an older, journeyman guy."

Carpenter, who was claimed off waivers from the Cowboys, is a "gym rat," Olson said, with limited physical ability and a mountain of intangibles. Snead, an undrafted rookie from Ole Miss, seems destined for the practice squad.

In other words, if Freeman and Johnson go down, the Bucs will be sunk.

"We've kind of got our fingers crossed on those two guys staying completely healthy and going with those two guys," Olson said. "Knock on wood, if something were to happen with those two guys, then I would be a little more nervous."

Bucs bits: Sure, organized team activities are voluntary. But Bucs coaches were not pleased that RB Derrick Ward missed last week to take care of a "dental situation" when there was more than a week between workouts. … WR Sammie Stroughter is making a push for a starting job. In addition to his flanker duties, he's working as an outside receiver and using his speed and quickness to get off the line of scrimmage. … WR Mike Williams, the fourth-round pick from Syracuse, appears to be ahead of Illinois WR Arrelious Benn, who was taken two rounds ahead of him. But Benn's real worth will be demonstrated once the pads go on and he's able to break tackles and make yards after the catch. … Judging from Thursday's workout, the only one open to the media last week, the defense is playing much faster than a year ago and ahead of the offense. … Olson is tinkering with a lot of new formations. During red-zone work, Olson put Freeman in the shotgun and had two running backs on the same side of the formation.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers ready to accept growing pains at QB 06/05/10 [Last modified: Sunday, June 6, 2010 1:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. No. 12 FSU, freshman QB James Blackman struggle in 27-21 loss to N.C. State

    College

    TALLAHASSEE — Whatever was left of No. 12 Florida State's College Football Playoff hopes suffered a massive, likely fatal, blow Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium.

    Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Nyqwan Murray (8) carries during the first quarter of the Florida State Seminoles game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on September 23, 2017, at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.  At the half, North Carolina State Wolfpack 17, Florida State Seminoles 10.
  2. Trump tells Warriors star Stephen Curry that White House visit is off

    Nba

    SOMERSET, N.J. — Stephen Curry and President Donald Trump agree on one thing: The Golden State star is not going to the White House anytime soon.

    Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry poses for photos during NBA basketball team media day Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. [Associated Press]
  3. For starters: Rays at Orioles, facing another old friend in Jeremy Hellickson

    Blogs

    UPDATE, 3:29: Here is the Rays lineup, with Duda at 1B and Morrison the DH:

  4. Bucs have chance to beat Vikings in their third stadium

    Bucs

    Here's a cool sign that the Bucs are getting up there as an NFL franchise: If Tampa Bay can win Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, it will mark the first time the Bucs have posted road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.

    TIMES ARCHIVES (2012) | Bucs RB Doug Martin runs during Tampa Bay's 36-17 win at the Vikings in 2012, in what was then called Mall of America Field. If Tampa Bay wins Sunday, it will mark the first time they have road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.
  5. NFL commissioner, players' union angrily denounce Trump comments on national anthem

    Bucs

    SOMERSET, N.J. — The National Football League and its players' union on Saturday angrily denounced President Donald Trump for suggesting that owners fire players who kneel during the national anthem …

    President Donald Trump walks off the stage after he speaks at campaign rally in support of Sen. Luther Strange, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Huntsville, Ala. [Associated Press]