Tampa Bay Should Start Rebuilding with Josh Freeman's Strong Rookie Arm
Change is inevitable, especially in the world of professional football. Players and coaches come and go so quickly sometimes that it is hard to keep track.
This past offseason the Tampa Bay Buccaneers experienced a house cleaning that wiped out everyone from the old regime except for some accountants, a few interns, and Ronde Barber.
Out with the old and in with the new.
Now with the Raheem Morris regime about to begin there are many questions surrounding the team; with perhaps the most important question being; who will be quarterbacking the team come opening day?
There are three men on the roster who are competing to be "the man" for the Bucs this coming season.
First, there is Luke McCown. He is one of the few holdovers from the Gruden era. He does not have much experience as a starter, but has shown flashes when given the opportunity to play.
Next, there is Byron Leftwich. He was drafted several years ago by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the hopes that he would be their quarterback of the future. He has not had what many would call a stellar career, but he has proved himself to be a serviceable quarterback and does have experience as a starter.
Finally, there is Josh Freeman. The Bucs spent their first round draft pick on the quarterback from Kansas State because they envision him as the quarterback of the future. Morris is also very familiar with Freeman as he served as Kansas State's defense coordinator during Freeman's freshman year.
When Freeman was drafted, many felt he would ride the pine this year and it would be a two horse race between Leftwich and McCown for the starting job. However, a combination of less than stellar performances from Leftwich and McCown in OTA's and training camp thus far and a strong showing by Freeman over that same time has many people reassessing Freeman's potential to start this year.
I was hesitant at first to want Freeman to see any action this season, but after hearing about the weak performances of Leftwich and McCown, I have started to change my mind.
Being perfectly honest, not many people expect the Bucs to be contenders this year; in fact people within the organization have admitted that the team is clearly in rebuilding mode. I think that makes the transition for Freeman that much easier.
There will not be much pressure on Freeman because the team is still a few years from being a contender. This allows him time to grow within the offense, while, at the same time, gaining real game day experience. Of course there will be struggles, but the team needs to see how much potential Freeman really has.
This is also not like David Carr starting as a rookie for the Texans. While the team won't factor in the playoff chase this year, there is plenty of talent on the team.
The Bucs have one of the better offensive lines in football, and when you combine that with Freeman's mobility, he should avoid taking too many big hits.
The Bucs also have a good collection of running backs at their disposal. Derrick Ward, Earnest Graham, and hopefully a healthy Cadillac Williams will be able to keep defenses honest by pounding the rock consistently.
There are also playmakers at the wide receiver and tight end positions. Kellen Winslow is a beast and will catch almost anything that is thrown his way. The same can be said for Antonio Bryant.
The injury to Bryant hurts because it does not allow him and Freeman to build a rapport; however, there will be time for that when Bryant returns for the regular season.
In fact, you can argue that Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco were able to succeed last year with less offensive talent then the Bucs have heading into this season.
It is vital that Freeman receives a fair amount of reps with the first team during training camp. If he was able to close the gap on Leftwich and McCown significantly during OTAs, there is no reason to believe that Josh Freeman cannot pass them during training camp and the preseason and be on the field against the Dallas Cowboys on opening day.
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