Who is Josh Freeman?

As the title implies, I find myself asking… uh, myself… Who is Josh Freeman?

This question is somewhat rhetorical, somewhat literal. I cannot figure out who this kid is. Is he the “comeback kid” that he showed flashes of in 2010. Routinely driving the Buccaneers for game winning/tying scores late in games. The kid who showed no fear and great leadership so early in his career. The kid who was mobile in the way that Ben Rothlisberger is mobile. Shaking would-be tacklers while keeping his eyes down field to extend plays.

Or, is he the guy we saw throw 26 INTs last year? The guy who looked shaken, confused and in over his head last year?

Coming into this year, the biggest question surrounding the Buccaneers was, which Josh Freeman is the real Josh Freeman?

Four games into the 2012 season, I can honestly say I have no idea. Week 1 against Carolina, Freeman was efficient, but not spectacular. He looked like a game manager (16-24, 138 yards and 1 TD)  who would spend most of his time handing the ball off to the Muscle Hamster and LaGarrett Blount.

In week 2, the Buccaneers found themselves in a shoot-out with the Super Bowl Champion NY Giants. Freeman responded to the challenge with his best day throwing the ball (15-28, 243 yards 2TDs, 2 INTs) and had the Bucs in position to win the game late. Freeman for the most part looked confident in the pocket.

Then came week 3 against Dallas. Freeman was terrible. There is not nice way to put it. He finished the day 10-28 for 110 yards 1TD and 1INT, but it looked a lot worse than that. In his defense, the one INT came when he threw a very catchable ball to D.J. Ware, who had the ball bounce off his face and into the waitng arms of Sean Lee (former PSU LB Sean Lee). Freeman looked hesitant and scared. The playcalling did him no favors as the Buccaneers followed the same 1st down-Run, 2nd down-Run, 3rd-down incomplete pass-script the entire game. Not once did the Buccaneers challenge the beat up Cowboys secondary deep down the field. It was a train wreck of a game for Freeman and the Bucs offense.

Finally, we had yesterday. The Bucs came into the game 1-2, but with two very close loses that easily could have been wins. In the first half, once again it was “Bad Josh”. He was inaccurate, and looked skiddish in the pocket. I considered turning the TV off at half-time with the Bucs down 21-6 and looking like they were going to be blown out.

Clearly these are not the 2011, Raheem Morris led Buccaneers. Under Greg Schiano, the Bucs came out in the second-half and shut down RGIII and the Redskins offense (until the final drive of the game). On the offensive side, Josh Freeman looked like a different QB. He looked like the guy from 2010, confident, accurate, taking deep shot after deep shot. Both Mike Williams (was his foot out-of-bounds before he caught that long pass?) and Vince Jackson ended the day with 100+ yards receiving and Freeman himself had, statistically his best game of the season (24-39, 299 1TD, 1 INT).

The Bucs lost because the defense looked lost on the final drive and because the offense laid a massive turd in the first half. But the real problem coming out of yesterday is that it did nothing to answer the major question concerning this team, and the title of this post: Who is Josh Freeman? Is he the guy that played the first 30 minutes yesterday and looked like he should be playing in the USFL? Or is he the guy who led the Bucs in the second half, throwing the ball all over the field (with accuracy) and led the team to a late go-ahead FG?

I honestly do not know, and I don’t think the Bucs do.

The Buccaneers drafted Freeman with the 17th pick in the first round of the 2009 draft. Here is a list of the players who were taken ahead of him:

Pick # NFL Team Player
1 DET Stafford, Matthew, QB, Georgia
2 STL Smith, Jason, OT, Baylor
3 KC Jackson, Tyson, DE, LSU
4 SEA Curry, Aaron, OLB, Wake Forest
5 NYJ Sanchez, Mark, QB, Southern Cal
6 CIN Smith, Andre, OT, Alabama
7 OAK Heyward-Bey, Darrius, WR, Maryland
8 JAX Monroe, Eugene, OT, Virginia
9 GB Raji, B.J., DT, Boston College
10 SF Crabtree, Michael, WR, Texas Tech
11 BUF Maybin, Aaron, DE, Penn State
12 DEN Moreno, Knowshon, RB, Georgia
13 WAS Orakpo, Brian, DE, Texas
14 NO Jenkins, Malcolm, CB, Ohio State
15 HOU Cushing, Brian, OLB, Southern Cal
16 SD English, Larry, DE, Northern Illinois
17 TB Freeman, Josh, QB, Kansas State

Honestly, and I am dead serious about this, there is not a single player on that list that I would rather have at this point that Josh Freeman. Ask any Jets fan how they feel about Mark Sanchez right now. Go take a look at Matthew Stafford’s stats for the 2012 season. And in doing so, keep in mind the offensive weapons that he has at his disposal

Ask Panther fans how they feel about Cam Newton right now. Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco are in their 5th years (one more than Freeman, Stafford and Sanchez). Can Josh Freeman be as good as Flacco and Ryan by next year, with the kind of weapons the Buccaneers have begun to surround him with? Yes, he can. Will he be? I have no freaking clue.

I don’t know who Josh Freeman is, and because of that, I am having a hard time embracing him. I made the mistake of teaching Avi that he is our favorite player before he was good enough to be dubbed so. Now I have to convince her that LaVonte David is in fact, our favorite player.

I don’t know what to make of Freeman, and until I do, I will not know what to make of these Buccaneers. They have bye this week, which gives them two weeks to get healthy and try to figure out who their quarterback really is.

Redemption Song

I asked the semi-rhetorical question earlier this fall, What’s a Penn State Football Fan to Do?

The answer is cheer their asses off for the young men who decided to stay and represent Penn State football in the Post Joe Paterno, Post Jerry Sandusky, Post NCAA Wrecking Ball era.

In week one of the college football season, one of the lead stories on every redundant ESPN show was “How will Penn State respond?” They responded by losing to Ohio University. Not THE (god that is annoying) Ohio State University, but Ohio University. Since that day, all the Nittany Lions have done is go out and win football games. The most recent being an absolute drubbing of Illinois on the road Saturday afternoon.

This win was particularly satisfying after what went down with the Illinois coaching staff following the NCAA Wrecking ball earlier this year. Following the NCAA’s decision to punish the players at Penn State (who did absolutely nothing wrong… actually, I don’t even want to talk about this because I am so upset about it.) The Illinois coaching staff (and they were not alone) camped out in the parking lot outside of the football complex in State College hoping to snag themselves some players who might be considering transferring following the Wrecking Ball.

This led to this statement from the Penn State Players:

The two players who do the majority of the talking in this video are Michael Zordich and Michael Mauti (the Michaels also happen to both be my favorite players, which I will come back to). Mauti in particular was upset by what happened and had this to say about coaches trying to pilfer players:

Penn State went out and made a statement Saturday and no one spoke louder than Mauti, who finished the game with six tackles and two interceptions, including one on the goal-line that he returned 99 yards before running out of gas. Mauti was the most vocal about the Illinois coaching staff this off-season. I would be lying if I said this year I had been fully invested in the Penn State games (really, until Saturday they were non-conference games anyway). But the one player who routinely jumped off the screen has been Mauti. So much so that Danielle has even taken notice, nicknaming him Dowdy-Mauti (I personally like Rowdy Mauti).

I read an article a few weeks ago about how, quietly two former Penn State linebackers has become two of the NFL’s best (49ers ILB Navarro Bowman and Dallas’ Sean Lee). Linebacker U continues to churn out legit NFL linebackers (where have you gone Poz?) and Mauti and Gerald Hodges will most likely be joining their ranks soon. Because I had detached myself from PSU this fall (no longer) I hadn’t truly bonded with any players in particular. Michael Mauti is now officially “My Guy”. Injuries have kept him from reaching his potential sooner, but now that he is healthy, the dude is killing it.

Bill O’Brien has done a really nice job with this team. I was afraid after the loss to Ohio that the wheels would fall of and things would spiral out of control. I mean, let’s be honest, when Matt McGloin is your QB, how much does it really take for things to fall apart? That simply has not been the case. I think the move to add the players names to the backs of their jerseys was the right one. O’Brien explained that he wanted the players who chose to stay to be recognized for that decision. I am not mad a the guys who left (except maybe the kicker, because he left us with Ficken). I understand why they did what they did. That being said, I have a world of respect for Mauti, Zordich and the rest of those who stayed.

Saturday, the Lions take on undefeated Northwestern in a game that will be a good barometer of what this team really is. It is a freaking shame that the NCAA did what they did. Penn State would be loaded with talent, and they seem to finally have the coaching staff to make good use of it. Joe is gone. Sandusky is behind bars, and now it is the fans and the players that are being punished, not the people who perpetrated those awful crimes, or the people who helped to cover them up. As a Penn State fan, and a football fan in general, I am saddened by this.

The SEC, and college football writ large are swamped by programs rife with recruiting violations, “student”-athletes who never go to class or have rap sheets longer than my arm, and coaches for whom there is no lower limit to what they will do in the name of a win. Yet it was this program, and these players for which the NCAA chose to make an example of. The NCAA has ZERO credibility in my eyes, and I say this not only as a Penn State fan, but a fan of college football in general. The entire system is screwed up.

There, I got that out. Penn State, and Michael Mauti specifically, you have won me back. Thank you. Sorry Danielle. Stop planning things for Saturdays.

On Second Thought- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It is intellectually lazy to play the “we beat them, they beat us, so we must be better than them” game.

That being said, The Buccaneers beat Carolina in week one, allowing only 10 yards rushing and making Super Cam look decidedly human in the process.

In week one, the New York Giants were beaten pretty badly by the Cowboys. They bounced back by beating the Buccanners in what ended up being a really close game. Eli Manning threw for 510 yards. But, if not for two questionable (in my opinion) calls, the unnecessary Roughness not called on Vincent Jackson and the Mike Williams “drop”, The Bucs might have won this game. In the end, they stood toe to toe with the Giants and came away with a very close loss. Josh Freeman looked really good for most of the game and there were definitely positives to take away.

The same cannot be said for the Pathers last night. In two of three games this year, Cam Newton has looked terrible. similar to Josh Freeman, there are a lot of unanswered questions surrounding Cam at this point.

When I turned off the game on Sunday, I felt defeated. I was disappointed that the Bucs didn’t hold on for the win, and I was feeling like I had just been punched in the face by reality. That reality being that these Buccaneers are not ready, yet, to compete with the best teams in the NFC. The more I think about it, maybe they are.

Sunday’s game will tell a lot about where the Buccaneers are headed. 2-1 with wins over Carolina and Dallas and one close loss to the Giants will look infinitely better than 1-2 and a team trying to decide if they are any good this year.

Watch out of Mike Williams this week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1-0

I know I have been here before (The Bucs started 4-2 last year before dropping 10 straight games to end the season). But today wouldn’t be OverReactionMonday if I didn’t overreact to what happened on the field yesterday.

So I will take my moment and enjoy it.

Let me start with the good. The Buccaneers defense (although lacking depth) is not lacking in young talent. I am 29 years old. Therefore, 10 years ago, the last time the Buccaneers were any good, I was an impressionable 19-year-old kid. Just like the music that you listen to at 16, 17 and 18 is the music you will love forever, The Buccaneers teams when I was a teenager are the ones that I will always look upon with rose colored glasses.

In my heart and mind, Mike Alstott, Warrick Dunn, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch and Ronde Barber… wait, Barber is still playing, will always be the greatest Buccaneers ever. What I loved about those teams was the style of defense they played. They were fast and they knocked the shit out of people.

I don’t know what this season will hold for the Buccaneers but what I do know is that the new core of young Buccaneers defenders are very reminiscent of  my Bucs from yester-year. It is intellectually lazy to say that Gerald McCoy is the New Sapp, LaVonte David is the new Brooks and Mark Barron is the new Lynch. Having said that, these guys can play. Gerald McCoy basically set up shop in the Carolina backfield and was a major reason why the Panthers were held to a franchise-low 10 yards rushing. LaVonte David looked like the Derrick Brooks clone that he was purported to be in the lead up to the draft. David was all over the field. And finally, Mark Barron looks to be more than the player John Lynch was, because Lynch was limited to basically being a small-ish linebacker that played SS. Mark Barron made GM Mark Dominik and company look very smart for taking him with the #6 overall pick last April.

As you can see here, Mark Barron can lay some effing lumber:

Steve Smith may have jumped right up and wagged his finger like he was alright after this hit, but I certainly noticed Mr. Smith was not on the field for the following play. After 10 years of playing football, I know what a guy looks like when he is pretending like he knows where he is.

Mark Barron is officially my new favorite Buccaneer defender. I want to love Gerald McCoy. But until he can stay healthy for a whole season, I have to reserve my affections.

On the offensive side of the ball, I think that Bucs Nation has seen the last of LaGarrett Blount in any significant role. The Muscle Hamster, Doug Martin literally took the starting gig and ran with it yesterday.

I still have concerns about Josh Freeman over the long haul. His decision making at times is infuriating. I will give him credit though, unlike Cam “Superman” Newton, who couldn’t decide which team to throw the ball to yesterday, Freeman, who led the NFL in INTs last year did not turn the ball over yesterday. He had one big pass to Vincent Jackson that was called back due to a hold, and Jackson also dropped one or two other catch-able balls. The line wasn’t pretty for Freeman, but he did enough to win the game and completed some big third down passes.

I don’t think this is a playoff team, yet. But I am very encouraged by what I saw yesterday.

At least I’m not a Bills fan.

Football is Back

I am probably too excited about this.

After dropping their last 10 games last year, and not really looking like they cared about it, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers enter the 2012 season looking for a bounce back season. I would be a lot less excited had they not made what appears to be all the right moves this offseason.

They dumped Raheem Morris in favor of the hard-nosed Greg Schiano. The drafted really well, including three new starters in the first two rounds with Mark Barron, Doug Martin and LaVonte David.

They massively upgraded the O-line and WR-corps with the additions of Carl Nicks and Vincent Jackson.

They made and addition by subtraction by dumping Kellen Winslow.

Unfortunately, I don’t think any of this will matter one bit if Josh Freeman is not able to return to his 2010 form, after amounted to a complete meltdown season last year. In his sophomore campaign, Freeman looked decisive, aggressive and ready to become the Buc’s franchise QB. In 2011, that all went to hell. Josh looked anxious in the pocket, inaccurate, and as if his pre-draft label of being in able to read a defense was going to stick with him.

It may be overly simplistic to say, but I believe as Josh Freeman goes, so goes the 2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I love the kid and want nothing more than for him to be successful. I think the Bucs will not hesitate to move in if he continues to regress. I am hopeful that he continues to improve. I do think that Kellen Winslow was part of the problem for Freeman. I think Josh felt a need to force the ball to Winslow to avoid drawing the ire of the former Soilder.

I know this is only one game, but I think we will know a lot more about the direction this team is heading at the end of today. I am hoping the Bucs force feed a large dose of the Muscle Hamster down the throat of the Panther’s defense.

Junior Seau

I started writing this last week, but had a hard time getting the picture to upload.

He was my first favorite player.

In fourth grade I was supposed to do a writing assignment about I don’t know what, and instead I copied Sports Illustrated article THIS word for word instead.

As hard as it was to catch Chargers games when I was in Elementary school living in Western New York, I did my best to be a San Diego Chargers fan.

As I grew up and hit middle school, my fan allegiance changed from the Chargers to the Buccaneers and I never looked back. Mike Alstott became my favorite player when I was in 9th grade and I became a Buccaneers fan in 1997.

I think when the truth comes out, we will find that concussions played a major role in Seau’s depression. I think the NFL is going to be in some serious hot water.

I read an article in SI a few years ago about what the NFL was doing to obstruct research and litigation into the impact that repeated concussions was having. I cannot find it now, but they refer to it in the video clip below.

At the end of the day, this is a sad story and for me is a little personally heart-breaking.

 

 

 

 

 

NFL Draft Round 1- Mark Barron and Doug Martin

As I stated yesterday, I was hoping the Bucs would come out of the first round with Morris Claiborne or Trent Richardson. My worst fear was that the Bucs would stay put at #5 and be left with neither.

When the Browns traded up from 4 to 3 to pick Richardson, I thought things were looking bleak for the Buccaneers. Little I did I know, GM Mark Dominik and head coach Greg Schiano had a plan all along.

Instead of moving up to pick Claiborne or Richardson, they moved back and selected Alabama Strong Saftey Mark Barron. I never really considered Barron for the Buccaneers, because sitting at pick 5, I didn’t think it was a good value. When the Bucs moved back to 7 and took him, I was surprised, but thrilled.

When I watch football, certain players jump off the screen. I can clearly remember watching Alabama’s drubbing of Penn State this year, and thinking that Mark Barron was a stud. The guy was all over the field making plays. He is big, strong, fast and really smart. Playing in a pro-style defense at Alabama under head coach Nick Saban, I have no doubt he can come in and start day one.

I went to sleep with about 5 picks to go in the first round and woke up surprised to see that the Buccaneers jumped back into the end of round one to grab Boise State running back Doug Martin. From everything I have read, he is a very complete back, out of a Ray Rice mold. As this was also a major need for Tampa (hence the interest in Richardson) I am fine with it. I would love to see the Bucs do some more wheeling and dealing and move into the top of round two to grab Nebraska LB Lavonte David. He is a stud and could eventually be a long-awaited replacement for my Mr. Derrick Brooks

Some of my other thoughts about round 1

  • The Browns gave up too much to move up one pick, but no one will care in a year when Trent Richardson is among the top 5 backs in the league
  • There was not enough excitement about picks 1 and 2. These guys are both going to be great players. But because we knew where they were going ahead of time, it killed the drama and excitement. All anyone cared about was pick 3 and beyond.
  • Something about Morris Claiborne worries me. He just has a look in his eye that screams that his score on the Wonderlic was not a mistake
  • Miami will regret the Tannehill pick. Mark my words.
  • Buffalo getting my son, Stephon Gilmore is cool. Danielle and I have planned for a long time that if/when we have a son, his name is going to be Stephon Gilmore. And damn is the young man good-looking.
  • One of the reasons I love watching sporting events with Danielle is that she doesn’t have any knowledge of most things ahead of time, so her reaction is based on nothing but what she sees, which is really refreshing. I usually know most of these guys back stories, and have a ton of accumulated knowledge that shapes my opinion. So when Seattle selected Bruce Irvin with the 15th pick and they showed his face, her immediate response was, and I quote: “He looks like a damn criminal.” As it turns out, that is exactly what he is. Terrible pick, terrible value. They could have gotten this guy at any point last night or tonight. If they loved him so much, move back and get him later. Rule #1 of drafting, don’t take a guy in the first round when you can get him in the 3rd. It’s just stupid. Pete Carroll always strikes me as thinking he knows more than everyone else.
  • Rex Ryan, when you draft a guy in the first round, and Mel Kiper spends five minutes questioning his effort and attitude, you probably took the wrong guy.
  • It turns out that the Browns had no intention of drafting Brandon Weeden with pick 22, but when Kendall Wright was taken at 20, on a whim they decided to scrap their entire plan (that being Colt McCoy at QB) and took Weeden. I think Weeden is going to be OK (maybe not much of an upgrade over McCoy) but in 15 minutes, the Browns front office made choices that will impact their team for a long, long time.
  • This is a great opportunity for the Bills to trade for McCoy, whom I thought they should have drafted when they had the chance three years ago.
  • The Steelers never blow anyone away with their picks, but they are always good picks. DeCastro is going to be a monster.
  • Did Jon Gruden ever see a team take a guy and have a negative thing to say about it? For a guy who scowles so much, you think he would be bubbling with negativity.
  • Speaking of Jon Gruden, is there anything worse for a Jon Gruden hating Buccaneers fan than having to listen to him discuss what is wrong with the Buccaneers, when so much of what he is talking about was his fault? I watch the draft to see Mel Kiper break down players, but when you stick Gruden on the set, in the middle of the table and allow him to talk non-stop for four hours, it becomes almost unwatchable for me. I know the picks were coming in fast, but Mel is the guy whose opinion I care about, not Chucky.
  • I am very excited about tonight.