“There are a number of starters that have already moved on,” said Freeman in the press conference. “We’ve started prep for the New York Jets.”
Kudos to Freeman and the rest of the veterans that get the night off, but isn’t there still work to do? So far this preseason, Freeman has thrown 26 passes and only connected on 12. That’s 46 percent for those of you that really don’t want to know how poorly he’s thrown the ball through three preseason games.
Freeman hasn’t thrown a pick, or a touchdown, but has been sacked nine times in the preseason. The numbers tell a story. Freeman needs some more time to get ready for the regular season. At the very least he needs to get more reps dodging incoming pass-rushers that seem to be in his backfield more frequently than ever.
Think about this. Freeman has been sacked nine times in the preseason and only completed 12 passes. That’s brutal.
The nine sacks aren’t all Freeman’s fault. The Tampa Bay offensive line must give him more time to throw, that’s for sure. The lack of completions, however...well, Freeman’s going to have to step up and take a lot, but not all of the blame. His receivers haven’t been kind to him on multiple occasions:
Josh Freeman 4 of 11 passing for 51 yards in 1st half. Did have a couple of drops, but missed open guys and lost a fumble #Bucs— WDAE 620 AM/95.3 FM (@620wdae) August 25, 2013
That tweet tells some of the story, but not all. Tampa Bay receivers dropped eight passes through the first three preseason games. Only four were thrown by Freeman, three in the game against Miami and one against New England. Just as many incomplete passes can be attributed to Freeman being off-target, sometimes grossly.
Why are so many of Freeman’s throws off-target?
Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated believes Freeman has a number of mechanical issues that, until he resolves them, will keep him from “from becoming a consistently great quarterback.”
He tends to freeze under pressure, he’s still balky and uneven in the pocket, his footwork is inconsistent at best, and he tends to zoom passes that should be relatively simple as much as he makes the “wow” throws that speak to his impressive potential.
If you gotta wait until your fourth or fifth year to prove you can play when you been playin’, that means you can’t play. Aaron Rodgers sat on the bench for two years behind Favre, but as soon as he got on the field he had the right stuff.
Later Tarkenton said “If you put a gun to my head, I’d say he's not gonna make it.”
As you can see, just like Freeman’s level of play, opinions on his talent and upside are also inconsistent.
Tarkenton did make one valuable point as he remembered his time in preseason action. Even though more and more starting quarterbacks are sitting more than they play in the preseason, Tarkenton said he needed to play to get ready for the regular season.
Freeman should have listened to that advice.
If you look at the 2012 season, in Freeman’s first four games he threw five touchdown passes and four interceptions while completing 54.6 percent of his passes. Call that his regular-season warm-up period.
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Over the next six games (he had a bye week to prepare after those first four weeks), Freeman threw 16 touchdown passes and only three interceptions and enjoyed an increased completion rate of 57.6 percent.
What if Freeman had asked for extra work Thursday night to prepare for the regular season?
There’s a better question that needs to be asked. Why didn’t head coach Greg Schiano force that move? More importantly, why has Schiano been so set on getting Glennon, his rookie quarterback, a ton of reps?
Glennon didn't have a great preseason, going 33-of-70 with three touchdowns and three interceptions, but he’s made progress. He’s definitely looked like a rookie quarterback.
But then again, hasn’t Freeman, too?
When the Tampa Bay brass decided not to extend Freeman’s contract and allow him to play this season, his contract year, without the security of a long-term deal, it seems that they may have been suggesting to Freeman that he needs to improve and play well or he’s gone.
He hasn’t shown that improvement in the preseason, and by not playing in Game 4, isn’t setting himself up for success in 2013.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.