By JEFF CARLSON
Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. 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.
Beating the Cleveland Browns in the home opener was a good start, but not all that impressive or surprising.
Going into the 2010 season, most of us chalked up a “W” in week 1, with the dangerous Josh Cribbs and Jake Delhomme’s history against the Bucs as the Browns’ only hope of success. Another come from behind win on Josh Freeman’s short resume was also a great positive coming out of the first week.
Far less of us could honestly haveed expect this very young team to go on the road and beat the Carolina Panthers in Week 2. Matt Moore isn’t Drew Brees and no one thinks he ever will be, especially with Jimmy Clausen waiting for his first misstep.
Moore was a question mark all week after getting dinged last Sunday. He didn’t play like he was in a fog, but the fast Buccaneers defense made things difficult all day as they dominated the Panthers. Clausen came on in relief, and we can expect to see him as their starter next week and when they come to Raymond James Stadium in the middle of November.
Raheem Morris has done some unorthodox things in his first year and a half at the helm of the ship and with last year’s jumbled mess, it left us with plenty of room for second guessing.
The most recent opportunity to question his decisions was taking the team to Tropicana Field on a Thursday, the team’s last hard work day of the week. With the week 1 win, they went right back to the baseball field for their Thursday practice and will go back each and every week until their winning streak is snapped. Don’t be surprised if a Thursday Rays game gets postponed so that the Bucs can get into the Trop and get their “Maddon Mojo” for the week (OK, there won’t be any Rays postponements.).
Following yesterday’s win, Josh Freeman was asked about his head coach and said the team was beginning to take on his personality and philosophies. In a league of copycats, walking to the beat of your own drum is a brave and risky thing to do. I read a story about Cleveland Browns’ Head Coach Eric Mangini, who was still using Bill Belichick’s practice schedule years after coaching under him. Our young coach is forging his own identity and path. And if he has his big, young franchise quarterback on board, they both might be quickly going in the right direction to get the stadium regularly filled up again, regardless of the economy.
Morris received a lot of good-natured ribbing following last year’s draft for repeatedly saying how large his new quarterback was. The value of that size was fully on display in yesterday’s huge division road win.
The comparisons to Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger are accurate and well-deserved. Roethlisberger’s ability to shed would-be sackers and extend plays, allowing receivers to get open for big plays, has helped the Steelers to two extra Super Bowl rings.
No one expects the Bucs to reach that status this year, and it would have been fun to see the two go head-to-head this coming weekend, but I’ll settle for another win regardless of who is calling signals for the other team.
It will take a win against an opponent like a fully stocked Pittsburgh team (who will start Charlie Batch or the newly re-signed Byron Leftwich) to really get everyone on board with the Morris/Mark Dominik regime, but starting 2-0 has people already choking on their preseason win total predictions.
Freeman was simply fabulous against the Panthers, carrying the team on his broad shoulders through most of the game, expertly avoiding the rush, steaming his girth for the first down and softly setting himself down past the first-down markers like a wily veteran.
I was pleased with the play-calling as a whole, but would still like the Bucs to find some more running lanes. Their third-down conversion rate was great, but they can’t expect it to be that good week in and week out. To generate more than 20 points a week without a Ronde Barber interception set-ups will probably take a little more diversity in their run-blocking schemes and/or deception with their receiver motions.
I don’t think Cadillac Williams will break much of anything with the straight up run blocking that we have seen so far, leaving Freeman in too many long distance third down situations to have consistent success against the better teams.
With the Rays battling to lead all of Major League Baseball with their young team and their unique manager, we may never see the Bucs in matching plaid sport coats, but a few more wins for Raheem Morris and a lot of teams will be looking to emulate his “RahStyle.”