Josh Freeman introduced an exciting dimension to the quarterback position for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when they drafted him out of Kansas State.
Freeman, in addition to his big arm, had the wonderfully valuable ability to take off and run for some clutch first downs when his receivers were covered.
Notice the use of "had."
The Josh Freeman who scrambled so well in 2010 and 2011, has done virtually nothing with his feet thus far in the 2012 season.
This facet of the Buccaneer offense may be more puzzling than the absence of LeGarrette Blount.
In 2010, Freeman took off 68 times for 364 yards. The big guy averaged more than five yards a carry (5.4) and broke a long one for 33 yards.
In 2011, he took off 55 times for 238 yards, averaged better than four yards a carry (4.3) and his longest scamper went for 25 yards.
This year, it started in the preseason. Freeman often had a wide-open field—10 yards would have been a cinch—but he chose to stay in the pocket. No big deal, you don't want your quarterback getting whacked when it doesn't count.
Now that the Bucs are two games into the regular season, Freeman has done virtually nothing with his legs. And that's puzzling. He showed up for camp 20 pounds lighter and everyone figured that would make him more dangerous and more mobile if he chose to dash from the pocket.
Through two games, he has 13 rushing yards, seven carries, and considering that he did have a 12-yard run in there, those other six carries have netted one yard. That's pretty un-Freeman-like when you look at past performances.
As bad as that is, Freeman's still out-working LeGarrette Blount, who has three carries for eight yards this season. Which begs the question: What Up With That?
The opportunities have been there for the third-year QB. There were at least a half-dozen opportunities in these first two games for him to pick up first downs or really good, easy yardage with a quick scramble.
Could it be that offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan wants to go totally "Eli Manning" on us and turn Freeman into a pocket statue? That's fine if it's Eli, but this is Big Josh, by gosh.
Is head coach Greg Schiano totally fearful of what might happen to the offense if Freeman gets injured?
Whatever it is, it doesn't make much sense, considering Freeman's past history as a pretty darn good runner when needed.
It's just another weapon, something for the defenses to think about.
Did we mention it's very puzzling?
No one in the un-curious Tampa MSM—that's mainstream media—has asked anyone about it, not Schiano, not Sullivan, not Freeman. Right now most of them are recovering from the "Kneel-Gate" hub-bub.
That leaves the rest of us to wonder if Freeman is going to do anything when the field opens in front of him this coming Sunday, or the next Sunday, or the next.
It seems like the only thing scrambling with the Bucs these days are the eggs in the facility cafeteria.
And that's a shame.
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