Josh Freeman: More Than Poor Mechanics Are Ailing Bucs Quarterback
The kid had a bad day—okay, a horrible day.
His mechanics were off, his footwork was shaky and his decision-making? Questionable at best.
He overthrew some receivers and under-threw others. He danced and bounced in the backfield, drifting and swaying in the pocket throughout the afternoon.
He played like a kid scared and unprepared—like this was the first time he had seen an NFL defense live and in person. You'd almost forget this is Freeman's fourth season in the league and third as a starter.
After breaking down film and watching all 28 of his pass attempts again, it was pretty clear that more than poor mechanics were to blame for Sunday's performance, which is saying something because quite honestly, his footwork was atrocious at times.
Yeah, the one thing I saw that stood out just as much as his shoddy mechanics, was his lack of confidence—in his arm, in his line, in his receivers and in the play-calling.
And as a result, he didn't look like much of a leader on Sunday.
Of his 28 pass attempts, I counted 10 that were thrown while he either drifted, faded or hopped—yes, hopped. Of those 10 attempts, Freeman completed just three passes.
Of the remaining 18 attempts that involved good mechanics (feet set, shoulders squared, etc.), Freeman completed just seven passes.
All told, Freeman completed 10 of 28 attempts for 110 yards—his lowest single-game passing total since a 93-yard performance in Week 14 during his rookie campaign.
Furthermore, his 35.7 completion percentage against Dallas is the lowest mark of his career. Yes, even lower than that 93-yard game in his rookie season.
All of which brings us back to the confidence factor.
To borrow a quote from Yankees great Yogi Berra, "ninety percent of this game is half-mental." Which is appropriate because when I went over the tape and studied Freeman's demeanor from Sunday, it was pretty clear early on that the offense was destined for failure.
Two plays in particular stand out when it comes to Freeman's confidence issues.
On the play above, Freeman stared down receiver Mike Williams for nearly four seconds before defensive end DeMarcus Ware (circled in red) sacked him and forced a fumble.
Williams was not pressed at the line, meaning he was able to run his route. So, why didn't Freeman anticipate the route and find Williams in stride? No confidence in his arm? In Williams? Both?
The other play that stands out is the other DeMarcus Ware forced fumble.
Once again, Freeman had ample time to make a read and deliver a pass, but seeing that all of his receivers were covered—there were six Cowboys in coverage—Freeman instead held onto the ball for nearly four seconds before Ware was able to swipe it from his grasp.
The question myself and many others are wondering is: Why isn't Freeman scrambling? As the picture below shows, he had a lane open to the left and possibly even to the right.
In years past he would've scrambled and gained something—why not now? There was no one in the second level to beat (yellow box), so why not run to make something out of nothing?
With the offense struggling as badly as they did, any positive yardage is better than no yards or, in this case, a fumble and lost yards.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, I like Freeman. I think he's a good quarterback with all of the tools needed to succeed—arm strength, size, etc. But if he can't shake whatever it is that has gripped him mentally? Then what?
Look, even though he stunk it up with poor footwork and horrible accuracy for most of the afternoon against Dallas, his two best throws of the game, one to Vincent Jackson over the middle, the other to Mike Williams on the sideline, came on the final drive.
Watching those passes are what gives me hope that somehow, someway he'll figure it out and come around.
Could it be that he is it not totally comfortable with Mike Sullivan's offense? Perhaps to some degree, I suppose. It was only their third full game working together.
But, what if it's something else? What if he's pulling a Knoblauch and forgetting how to complete the simplest of tasks?
Then, my friends, the Bucs are in for many more Sundays like the one we all just witnessed.
Buckle up—it could get bumpy.
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