The QB Blast: Freeman Needs Help From The Slot

November 6th, 2011

Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson is often seen as a color analyst on Bright House Sports Network, and he trains quarterbacks of all ages locally via his company, America’s Best Quarterback. Plus, he’s a really cool dude.


It’s been two weeks since their last game, with a bye week to get healthy and assess their proficiencies and deficiencies. And perhaps most important, time for the Bucs to make the kind of mid-season adjustments that they have been making at halftime of most of their games because of the awfully slow starts on both sides of the ball.

I fully supported the decision to go to London early, but now understand that at least some of the “youngry” Bucs treated it more like a Las Vegas vacation (what happens in London stays in London) than the successful business trip that the older and wiser Bears went on. 

A micro look so far says there are issues for both coordinators and the head coach to address. A macro look says they are 4-3 and playing for the division lead at the halfway point, and I don’t think anyone can be unhappy about that. Any disappointment means the overall expectations for this team have grown and that’s a tribute to those same coaches. There’s also been loads of inconsistent football throughout the league.

I don’t believe that overconfidence is Josh Freeman’s problem for his early season passing woes, but rather simply slow, poor decision-making and some simply poor throws.

His receiving corps has lacked explosive play-making all season, with Mike Williams reminding me of Michael Clayton’s sophomore campaign following their rookie breakout seasons. I just hope he doesn’t continue to follow Clayton’s career trend, and I don’t think he will, but he needs help from a slot receiver that can occupy the safety, so that he can get one-on-one and let Josh Freeman have the confidence to let it rip to the No. 1 guy.

I don’t believe the argument that the rest of the receiving corps is capable enough to compete at the highest level of the NFL is correct. They do need to be faster, tougher and better across the board.

Freeman needs to be able to just drop back and throw the deep ball (man-to-man coverage on the outside) with confidence that his guy will either catch it or make sure the other guy doesn’t. I haven’t seen him try it all year. They need more YAC from everyone! 

I won’t make a big deal about it, but I would like to see them have another wideout with speed and get Winslow off the field on 3rd and 7+. He has made a few noteworthy plays, but I think they would create more big play opportunities matching speed with the “nickel” corner that defenses substitute in these situations and maybe “5” won’t get stuck on “82”.

Generally, the Bucs are not catching the ball on the move enough, which is partly the play design and partly the execution. 

I have been disappointed that LeGarrette Blount wasn’t ready to help on third downs to start the season, but took half of his second year to get the protections down (attribute that to the lockout, but I thought he should have taken it upon himself to get that worked out before the end of training camp). The NFL has become a shotgun league on 3rd and 2+, but now with Blount available the Bucs can stay in “regular” people and have more options to pick up first downs, keep drives alive and out of the hands of Drew Brees and company.

Maybe it is just his flowing mane that catches my eye, but as the Bucs finish up their mid-season bye week, I think the most impactful player on the team is Adrian Clayborn. His constant effort and pressure on the backside make him the MVP at the halfway point.

 If the rest of the team took his example into their play, this team would be off-the-charts and all those slow starts wouldn’t be a topic of conversation.

10 Responses to “The QB Blast: Freeman Needs Help From The Slot”

  1. BecklesHeartsRuud Says:

    No disagreement here Jeff. Your pretty much spot on with every single point you made. I’ll focus on Clayborn though 🙂 since he is really the only positive point you made. Dude is a beast. He is built to be a perennial star at right end because he doesnt simply rely on speed around the edge. He has just enough speed but also an INCREDIBLE bull rush and is quickly establishing himself as one of the best handfighters in the trenches across the entire NFL. I see Clayborn as a guy who can eventually establish some real signature pass rush moves and with his unique combo of size, speed and strength could eventually start reminding people of Reggie White!!!

  2. BecklesHeartsRuud Says:

    As far as the recievers go- Mike Will, Rejus, and Preston are all sophomores and the ceiling of these guys is still incredibly high. I could be wrong but I think the return of Sammie Stroughter may make an unexpected difference as he is less explosive but more sure handed than the other recievers and drops have been just as much if not more of a problem than Freemans accuracy and decision making. Dont be shocked if Sammie has a big one in his first game back.

  3. BecklesHeartsRuud Says:

    As far as Blount goes its time to just throw him in the fire and force him to learn to be an all around back. The few times they have actually thrown to him on passing downs have all looke impressive. Maybe he will give up a sack or two along the way but it will be worth when we can finally line up in 3rd and short with Blount and have defenses scrambling cuz they dont know if we will hand off to Blount, pass to a reciever or hit Blount on a delayed pass route out of the backfield for a first.

  4. Jonny Says:

    Great read Jeff.

    I like you pointing out that it is Freeman’s lack of confidence and slow decision making, not the over confidence that is resulting in those interceptions. I am no psych analyst nor I am Freeman, but as a fan that has watched the game for a long time I think you are spot on. What concerns me though is Freeman rarely acknowledging it. Yes, he is taking all the blame of those bad plays, but I just feel he is still not being honest to himself by saying “overconfidence”. At least hopefully he has realized the problem within himself is working to overcome it.

    I think our offense needs another explosive weapon among the receiving corps. And Winslow like you mentioned has been getting slow, unable to achieve much separation these days. Receiving corps need to step up big time and allow Free to make some easy throws instead of highly precise ones which only 3-4 QBs can make in the entire league.

  5. Keith Says:

    Agree that it’s lack of confidence with Free. Couldn’t believe when Doug Williams and others said otherwise. He’s not confident, which is why he’s not running. He’s just not feeling the game, and Olson has to set him up more for success and rhythm.

  6. Bucweed Says:

    I’d take WInslow off on 3rd and 7 too if they’re only going to use him as a a checkdown. No point there. Plus it would be great to see him cry like a baby and show his true colors on the sidelines.

    Remember Olson never figured out how to use JEremy Stevens, who nobody in the league could cover. Olsons 40 percent of the problem.

  7. BigMacAttack Says:

    Clayborn is doing an awesome job but Penn is the team MVP to this point.

  8. crazy Says:

    Sounds like Olson needs to stop making the players fit the playbook and make the playbook fit the players.

  9. sensiblebuc Says:

    “The NFL has become a shotgun league on 3rd and 2+…”

    I don’t understand why this is so. It limits your options/makes you easier to defend. Why not play action with a boot giving Josh a run/pass option like EVERY time? That’s an indefensible play.

  10. IMHO... Says:

    Koenen is MVP