1. Bucs

Schiano: Bucs sticking with Freeman

Josh Freeman keeps his job despite completing fewer than half his passes in all three games.
Josh Freeman keeps his job despite completing fewer than half his passes in all three games.
Published Sep. 24, 2013

TAMPA — Despite an offense that has produced one trip to the end zone in the past two weeks and is ranked ahead of only Jacksonville's in scoring, Bucs coach Greg Schiano isn't shaking things up. No knock you off your chair changes.

Schiano plans to stick with Josh Freeman at quarterback and said Monday he has the "utmost confidence" in offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan. Tampa Bay is 0-3 for the first time since 2009 and has lost eight of its past nine games under Schiano.

"Josh is our starter. That's where we are," Schiano said. "He's done some good things and he's done some things that he'd like to change and we'd like to. But it's the whole offensive unit. We need to be more precise and we need to coach more precisely, it's everybody involved."

Freeman completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes for the third straight game (sixth including preseason) in Sunday's 23-3 loss to the Patriots. The Bucs offense has scored three points in the past seven quarters.

Now he will have fewer weapons at his disposal. The Bucs placed tight end Luke Stocker on injured reserve and activated Olympic sprinter Jeff Demps, a kick returner, to the 53-man roster. The status of receiver Vincent Jackson, who left Sunday's game with a rib injury, is unknown for this week's home game against the Cardinals.

Without going into detail, Schiano said a number of players are responsible for the scoring drought.

"There's schematic issues that we have to be more precise," Schiano said. "We left way too much on the table there. If we just do our jobs, we'll score a lot of points."

On Sunday, the Bucs dropped two passes that likely would have resulted in touchdowns in the first half. Tampa Bay had six trips inside the New England 40-yard line and came away with only a field goal.

Freeman went 19-of-41 for 236 yards with an interception against New England. He was the 33rd-ranked quarterback in the NFL with a 59.3 passer rating heading into Monday night's game between the Raiders and Broncos.

Schiano said Freeman has done some things well this season.

"I think he understands what we're trying to do with our offense," Schiano said. "I think when he's in the pocket and feels comfortable, he's delivering the ball. It's when things break down a little bit, it hasn't been as good as it's been before and it will be again. One of his strengths is extending plays. But again, when you have variables, where we're not sharp enough on the details, it's hard to be the triggerman when some things aren't going the way they're supposed to.

"There's 10 other guys out there … and everybody has some of the responsibility for not scoring points, starting with me. But obviously, it does happen because he touches the ball 73 times on Sunday. But there's a whole bunch of us (who) have to get our stuff straight."

Schiano isn't the only one who has Freeman's back. Guard Carl Nicks, who played his first game since recovering from MRSA, said the team stands behind its fifth-year quarterback.

"Josh is our guy," Nicks said. "We're going to ride and die with Josh. He's the starter, he's always been the starter. We support him 110 percent."

With Jackson, Stocker and tight end Tom Crabtree out, Freeman was forced to throw to an assortment of new targets that included tight ends Nate Byham and Tim Wright and kick returner/receiver Eric Page.

"We have some new guys and we have some returning guys and everybody is making their share" of mistakes, Schiano said. "So I go back to we have to do a better job of communicating exactly what we want and then we need to hold people accountable. That's the tenets of this program, it's the foundation for what we do.

"We're not doing a good enough job of it starting with me, so we've got to do better."