Is Josh Freeman the NFL's most overlooked offensive weapon?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman, the third quarterback selected in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft is the orchestrator of eight fourth quarter comebacks, has a higher completion percentage and has passed for more touchdowns than Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez.
In two plus seasons as a starter, Freeman’s numbers exceed those of Sanchez and Stafford in several categories, but it is the latter who receive the tags as “players to watch” while in many cases Freeman’s name goes unmentioned.
Why is that?
Is it because the Bucs in recent seasons have not been one of the NFL’s top tier teams? Until this season, the Detroit Lions have been a laughingstock. Only the New York Jets have been one of the higher profile teams in the league and have done so in spite of Sanchez’s performances. Sanchez’s interceptions (37) equal Freeman’s touchdown output since 2009. Sanchez has thrown for more yards 6,621 to 5,988 but trails Freeman in completion percentage 55.4 percent to 60 percent and QB rating 72.5 to 81.4
Freeman was chosen 17th overall in the 2009 draft out of Kansas State University. In three seasons, Freeman became the school’s all-time leader in yardage and one of only two quarterbacks to score at least 60 touchdowns. At 6’6 248 lbs. Freeman is tough to bring down in the pocket and while he doesn’t look to run, he has the ability to extend plays.
In his first season in Tampa, Freeman started in Week 9 against the Green Bay Packers going 14 for 31 for 205 yards and three touchdowns. Freeman threw a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to take the lead in the Bucs would win 38-28.
It would be the first of Freeman’s eight career fourth quarter comebacks.
Two weeks later against the 13-1 New Orleans Saints the Buccaneers at 2-12 went into the Bayou and came out with and overtime victory over the eventual Super Bowl Champions. Freeman was 21 for 31 for 271 yards and was instrumental in keeping the Saints defense off balance despite throwing two interceptions. It was a game that rejuvenated the Buccaneers franchise and made no doubt who the signal caller would be for the foreseeable future.
Since then the Freeman has been 12-8 as a starter, including 10-6 in 2010 and a 2-1 start this season. And while the Buccaneers aren’t considered Super Bowl contenders this season they are a team on the rise and Freeman is one of the reasons why.
Looking at Freeman’s game, his style is closer to Donovan McNabb (his mentor) in terms of being a pocket passer that doesn’t look to run. And maybe since Freeman’s style is not what most are used to seeing or expect from most black quarterbacks, that’s where Freeman falls into a numbers game/popularity contest with his White counterparts.
Case in point, until last season Freeman had never handed off to a 1,000-yard rusher (LeGarrette Bount) and has yet to have a 1,000-yard receiver. However, his divisional counterparts Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Jake Delhomme/Jimmy Clausen have had one or both at those skill positions. Freeman, again has the services of Blount along with reserve back Earnest Graham. Kellen Winslow Jr. continues to stay healthy and post solid numbers while maintaining a low-key profile.
At receiver, Freeman has Mike Williams and second year wideout Preston Parker. The Buccaneers were in a great position financially following the NFL Lockout and to the surprise of many did not go after any big targets one of which should have been a receiver.
The fact that the Tampa Bay coaching staff that has remained intact from his rookie season. Raheem Morris has been solid as the teams head coach. Morris didn’t always have the backing of the Bucs brass as there whispers that some wanted Morris gone after going 3-13 in his first season. Since then the Bucs have just missed the playoffs and are looking forward to making the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
I’m sure that Josh Freeman would like for himself and the Bucs to remain incognito to those on the outside looking in. But as Freeman continues to perform heroic comebacks and the Bucs keep winning the light is eventually going to shine on him.
Some of us have been watching longer than others.