Archive for the ‘QB Blasts’ Category

The QB Blast: Name Graham Starting Fullback

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010
Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes the weekly QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson has TV gigs in the Bay area and trains quarterbacks of all ages via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.

The Buccaneer brass will evaluate a ton of potential NFL talent at the combine this week as they make their plans for the April draft.

They got their man to lead the offense last year and now they must put more pieces of the puzzle together to make that engine rev higher this season.

While I’m not all that excited about Cadillac Williams or Derrick Ward, the guy that needs to be their starting fullback is Earnest Graham.

I don’t care that he is undersized. He is the kind of football player that I want to go to “war” with. Not only is he a selfless player, willing to do whatever it takes to help the team, he has multi-purpose abilities that can help make Greg Olson a better play-caller.

There was great expectation for Jon Gruden to implement his “rocket” backfield, putting two tailbacks on the field at the same time and trying to give the defense more speed to defend. Earnest Graham may not put much fear into too many defensive coordinators based on speed, he is the perfect guy to help create specific mismatches that can give the Bucs an offensive advantage.

That was Gruden’s best attribute as a coordinator and Olson would do well to follow his lead with regards to who they choose to be their lead blocker.

Or, if they are smart enough to move their offense into the 21st century, they would choose instead to be a more diversified offense, focused on giving their “franchise” quarterback more opportunities than handing the ball to “journeyman” running backs.

The QB Blast: Invest In Receivers Immediately

Thursday, February 11th, 2010
carlson

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

By JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes the weekly QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson has TV gigs in the Bay area and trains quarterbacks of all ages via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.

A cold Brees blew through the NFL’s biggest game Sunday, as Drew’s Saints topped the league MVP for the title. This game took two dome teams with great passers and made it the QB Bowl. 

The team model to win in January has been to have a run-dominated team, matched with a stellar defense (Ravens 2000, Bucs 2002, Steelers 2005 & 2008), but I think the NFL has officially shifted to a pass-dominated league. Sure, there will always be teams dominated by the run and tough defense, but wide-open, attacking offenses are going to be the most common model moving forward. 

If you model your team to be a running team, then you must have one of the best defenses in the league, because these offenses are built to score plenty of points and also to come back from deficits, as the Saints did after falling behind by 10 in the first quarter. Yes, they held Peyton Manning to 17 total points, with a total team effort that took in special teams, defense and sustained offense.

The Bucs gave the Saints a 17-point cushion to start their late season game and overcame it for the win, but let’s not argue about where each team was in the season and their motivations.

Let’s agree that if the Buccaneers don’t become a better defensive team week in and week out, the current offensive model will not keep up with the Saints, Cardinals, Vikings or Cowboys in the NFC playoffs. The Jets and Ravens weren’t bad on the AFC side, but even with top rated defenses they were underdogs throughout. 

So, the Bucs would do well to invest in their receiving corps immediately.

Even with the acquisition of K2 last year and Antonio Bryant’s franchise tag, there is a gaping talent difference in playmaking ability. I’m not a big fan of either of the aforementioned receiver’s body language, which I think is important for team morale.  And if I were choosing, I would go in search of hungrier talent and let A.B. go find greener pastures elsewhere. 

One thing I am pretty happy about for the Bucs, as the NFL officially turns its eyes to 2010, is their starting quarterback in this QB-driven league. He got some experience, which puts him light-years ahead for all off-season activities and I like the hire of position coaches Alex Van Pelt and Eric Yarber.

Young players, like the Bucs roster is full of, appreciate coaches that have “been there” when being told to work harder and fix this or that. 

Now with the head coach and general manager getting the kinks out of their first year in their respective jobs and a QB with oodles of potential, it’s full steam ahead to finding some guys that can turn a short throw into an 80 yard TD. That’s something Yarber actually knows something about (he is a couple years older, but he was a very good threat at Idaho, while I was at Weber State in the same conference).

The QB Blasts: Fix-Freeman Plan Arriving Late

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010
 
carlsonBy JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes the weekly QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson has TV gigs in the Bay area and trains quarterbacks of all ages via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.

Greg Olson wants Josh Freeman to improve his accuracy and get his completion percentage to 60 percent like all the other “playoff quarterbacks,” (except he forgot the rookie taken with the fifth pick, who just played in the AFC Championship following a 53.8 completion rate in the regular season).

I was glad to read in the St. Pete Times story about Olson and Freeman on Monday that the playcaller has something to do with Freeman’s improvement, not just the accuracy of the QB.

“…We can help him out certainly with the routes we’re calling as well.”

Olson, who took over the offense from fired coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski 10 days before the season opener, said he will tailor the 2010 scheme toward his strong-armed quarterback.

“We’re going to try and build on his strengths,” Olson said. “Number one, you’ve got to build it around your quarterback and around what he does best and what he feels more comfortable with.

The Bucs, and other teams it turns out as well, are self-handcuffed to finding less than stellar coaching talent because of the potential NFL labor issues coming in 2011. They only want to offer new assistants one-year deals in case there is a strike/lockout situation, so they’re not on the hook for coaches pay if there is no season.

The Bucs already were in this tenuous spot because of the lack of job security of its head coach and management team, as well.

I mean, what well-respected, successful assistant coach would consider Tampa Bay as a spot to bring his family, knowing his tenure could be over like a spring break vacation if things don’t go well immediately? Or, considering Bucs’ recent history with coordinators, even over before the season starts?

Last season’s hot Bucs topics were, ‘When will Josh Freeman take over as the starter?’ and ‘Will Raheem Morris keep his job? That doesn’t lend itself to hiring top coaching talent, even if some accomplished quarterbacks coach was still sniffing around for a job this week at the Senior Bowl.

But back to the QB and the need for Josh Freeman to improve his mechanics and fundamentals. It scares me to think that the No. 1 pick of your draft and the future of your team (especially with Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich as your alternatives) was an afterthought in 2009. But that is what Olson told the Tampa Tribune on Monday.

“He didn’t have what Sanchez had or what (Falcons QB Matt) Ryan had last year. Those guys were the guys right from the start. But this guy (Freeman), he was more like an afterthought. That’s why I’m so excited about him.” 

I told you here on JoeBucsFan.com in June that Freeman should have been fast-tracked no matter what the initial intention was for him.

He, like any other player, needed to be ready as soon as possible, even if he didn’t play. And as I wrote here recently, the Bucs will go looking for a guy to work on keeping Freeman’s left hand on the ball longer, so as to reduce fumbles. As for becoming more accurate, he’ll just keep practicing getting rid of the “pro” routes that are different from the college routes he was so used to he couldn’t get them out of his system this year (read the full newspaper quotes for yourselves).

It’s not surprising Freeman wasn’t used to the pro routes. His QB coach through the offseason, who became his offensive coordinator just before the first kickoff, says “He knows he can play a lot better, but to come in and do what he was able to do with no practice was phenomenal,” Olson said of Freeman. 

So a multi-million dollar, first-round pick was thrown into a NFL game with no practice? How’s that for protecting your biggest investment and making sure it is successful.

Wow. This kid really is good, or something was overlooked on the practice field, because he should have been getting prepared by the coaches long before his debut.

The QB Blasts: Seeking A Break In The Clouds

Sunday, January 17th, 2010
Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

By JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes the weekly QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson has TV gigs in the Bay area and trains quarterbacks of all ages via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.

Watching the Cardinals and Packers toss the ball around the yard last weekend was magnificent to watch, if you are a fan of the forward pass. I don’t think a Buccaneers’ game will ever resemble that and that is OK, because there is more than one way to win in the NFL.

But, as I watched that game, I reminisced the events of the lost season of 2009 in Tampa Bay and am looking for the break in the clouds to get interested for next year.

Sure the Bucs won two games in December, even beating the top seed in the NFC, but I didn’t think that Saints team from December would be the same one we saw this weekend. And it surely wasn’t.

To get my bearings, I went back to January of ’09 when someone realized that Jon Gruden’s 9-7 team, his offense and Monte Kiffin’s defense weren’t good enough to bring back. The thought was that the Tampa 2 was a relic and Monte’s monster of the past wasn’t going to get it done in the future and needed to be changed to Jim Bates’ pressured bump and run.

The offense was again led by an aging QB that struggled with his health from the first days of training camp. This too had to change.

The team’s management went with the young-and-excited approach and reached for the inexperienced and inexpensive option. About a week before the first game, the new head coach sacked the new offensive coordinator for the QB coach, who sacked the new offense for Gruden’s old offense to be run by a new QB who had never been in Gruden’s offense before. 

By midseason, the new head coach had decided that the new defensive coordinator’s schemes didn’t work and went back to Monte’s old defense to find that old spark that didn’t work and was outdated in ’08.

So,, for 2010 the team is back running Gruden’s old offense (and still paying Gruden for not coaching it) and running Monte’s old defense as it tries to regain the magic that Gruden and Kiffin once shared.

The only real difference now is the Bucs are married to their quarterback instead of just dating.

Can Olson Really Improve Freeman’s Mechanics?

Friday, January 8th, 2010
Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

Joe’s experienced team of analysts, former Bucs Jeff Carlson and Steve White, are not afraid to get into healthy exchanges with fans in the comments areas of JoeBucsFan.com.

These two are passionate Bucs fans, in addition to being well versed at the highest level in the Xs and Os of the game.

In a recent exchange, Carlson, the former Bucs QB (1990 and 1991), was asked by commenter FlBoy84 a pointed question: 

“In an article you did previously, you mentioned that most teams don’t have someone on staff to work with QB’s on tightening up the mechanics. Can you clarify? 

Here is Carlson’s response:

You are under the correct assumption that a QB coach should be there to tweak the mechanics, etc.

But the cold, hard reality is that of all the QB coaches in the league, only a few have ever been a QB or know much about correcting problems with different motions, so they just leave them alone and work on the Xs and Os of the individual plays, understanding the defenses and different blitzes for that week’s game, and making sure the QB knows all of his checks (audibles).

Byron Leftwich said he worked on improving his mechanics everyday. What did he work on? He certainly didn’t improve or change anything from his days with Jacksonville, Atlanta or Pittsburgh.

Even though guys are given credit for “developing” QBs (Charlie Weiss for Tom Brady, or the Gators’ Scott Loeffler for Brady, Brian Griese and others while at Michigan), they don’t help them improve their throwing technique; they try to help them make better decisions with the ball.

Did you see Tim Tebow’s throwing motion improve this year under Loeffler, the guy that “developed” Tom Brady? Not a bit in my opinion.

I don’t think Charlie Weiss, who never played football at all, is giving clinics to Tom Brady, Brady Quinn or his newest guy Jimmy Clausen.

Scouts say Clausen will be a No. 1 pick and he probably will be, but quote me as saying he won’t be a good pro.

He hasn’t improved his “strange” throwing technique in three years under Weiss, who has had him since high school.

So, can we expect Josh Freeman to improve his throwing fundamentals? No.

Small changes to his weight transfer and his follow-through would put him on balance after the release of the ball, resulting in a more consistent outcome. Freeman will probably become a better QB by better decision making skills, which is what the QB/Offensive Coordinator will be working on throughout the offseason, training camp and during the season.

If he makes better decisions, his stats should improve. But if he was able to improve his mechanics, his ball would be more accurate more often.

If he combined both, he would make large improvements in his play and improve the team’s potential for winning more games.

The QB Blasts: Morris Must Improve Immediately

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010
carlson

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

By JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson writes the weekly QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson has TV gigs in the Bay area and trains quarterbacks of all ages via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.

Before we look forward to 2010 and a Buccaneers “future so bright you gotta wear shades” (thank you Jon Gruden), let’s look back on 2009 and see what can be improved upon — hopefully.

This year’s team finished 2-2 in the final four games, while Gruden’s team in ’08 finished 0-4. That’s a positive trend, but the defense looked exactly like the Monte Kiffin defense of a year ago and couldn’t stop the run to save their lives in the season finale against an average Atlanta Falcons program that finished five games better than the Bucs, good enough for second in the NFC South.

The offense sputtered in that finale, not capitalizing on an opening kickoff turnover in the red zone and only scoring 10 points on the day.

At this writing Raheem Morris is the coach for 2010, but it seems like that could still change at any moment. I for one believe that one year is not sufficient for anyone to be given a fair chance at success, even though egregious errors were made throughout this season.

Hiring two coordinators and firing two coordinators, one before the season began, are blunders beyond explanation, and expensive ones at that. But only the Glazers have to worry those kind of wasted funds. Or does that come directly out of the free-agent budget?

The Byron Leftwich experiment was another obvious and expensive waste of everyone’s time and energy and was chronicled by me in the spring. The Luke McCown trade took his salary off the books, but not his multi-million dollar signing bonus. So, our rookie quarterback (who came out of college a year early) and savior-in-training learned from veteran Leftwich for three games and second-year man (with zero experience) Josh Johnson for four games before taking the reins.

As I said in June after hearing Raheem Morris talk about potentially speeding up Freeman’s development, what would keep you from wanting to maximize any player’s development at the fastest rate? Shouldn’t every player be on the fastest track possible to be ready if needed? Nonsensical.

I can’t remember a special teams coach being given a chance to jump to NFL Head Coach, but Rich Bissacia’s name has been thrown out there and he should be the league’s assistant coach of the year. Without the special teams’ performance, this Buccaneer team would have surely matched the Detroit Lions record for futility.

Mark Dominik and Raheem Morris made a bold move in the spring and let Jeff Garcia, Derrick Brooks and Joey Galloway find greener pastures and only Galloway and Garcia saw limited action. I had no problem with the unexpected exodus, but it seemed that the Bucs move to youth from top to bottom left a vacuum of leadership that was sorely needed.

And finally, while Morris may never stop chest-bumping (he has a very nice vertical don’t you think?) and coaching with an unmatched energy from the sideline, he turned off the music at practice and may even stop taking time-outs before his offense makes critical 3rd-and-1 conversions.

Here’s to a new year of growing up, learning from the past and improving in the immediate future.

The QB Blasts: Complete Efforts Truly Exciting

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009
Jeff Carlson

Jeff Carlson

By JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson writes the weekly QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com.Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson has TV gigs in the Bay area and trains quarterbacks of all ages via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.

After watching the Vikings and Bears go at it Monday night, it made me remember just how hard it is to win a single game in the NFL.

The Bucs winning Sunday at the Saints after going down 17-0 really was impressive. What has been a signature of the three Bucs wins this year has been production from all three phases of the game.

The defense could be credited with all three wins, as holding the Saints to 17 is definitely a winning effort. Four interceptions and six points allowed against the Seahawks is, too. In their first win of the season the defense threw in three picks and a TD against Aaron Rogers and the Packers.

Special teams has been huge in all three wins and the Bucs might not have posted their first win until the Seahawks game if it weren’t for their kicking game heroics against Green bay. Remember back to Geno Hayes’ blocked punt and Ronde Barber’s TD in the throwback orange. Clifton Smith gave the offense a chance in the red zone with his long kickoff return in that game. Sammie Stroughter continued to change field position in the Seattle game and Micheal Spurlock’s punt return TD against the Saints gave the Bucs a chance at overtime.

In the wins, the offense has been able to take advantage of what the defense and special teams set them up for. And against the Saints, they even drove the entire field to open the second half and get back in the game.

Raheem Morris says he doesn’t know if this team is a mirage or for real yet and I don’t either, but if you watched Brett Favre and Jay Cutler battle to overtime in the cold last, a win in the NFL is hard to come by — road wins even harder.

The Bucs have put two up in a row and that is something to get excited about.

The QB Blast: Finally A Misdirection Screen

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009
carlson

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

By JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson writes the weekly QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson has TV gigs in the Bay area and trains quarterbacks of all ages via his company,America’s Best Quarterback.

Coming off Josh Freeman’s five interception game against the Panthers, an obvious reaction was to simplify things for your rookie QB, especially going against a Rex Ryan coached defense.

Instead, Greg Olson opened against the Jets with a 5-step drop and a pass over the middle, resulting in an interception on the first offensive play of the game!

Now, Olson didn’t make Freeman throw the ball, but just the dropback in the pocket told me he made a big mistake in the call itself.

I couldn’t bear to watch much more of that poor performance and especially didn’t like Freeman’s comments about how the Jets came up with more unique blitzes that caught the Bucs off-guard. It was Olson’s job to create and call plays that could be successful regardless of what the Jets brought. Not an easy job, but better than saying we were caught off-guard.

I didn’t give my beloved Bucs much of a shot at all this past Sunday, traveling three time zones to play a lackluster Seahawks team, and when Josh Freeman’s first pass once again was a late, over-the-middle interception, I feared the worst.

But credit must be given to Raheem Morris and the other coaches for getting their players to play inspired football in the second half — to win going away.

I will not get giddy about their second win in any sense, but I will say that Olson incorporated a misdirection screen to score a touchdown to Derrick Ward late in the game, something I have been begging to see for years.

Maybe with its success, he will go deep into Gruden’s playbook and find a couple more to take on the Saints.

The QB Blast: Freeman Impressive Despite INTs

Thursday, December 10th, 2009
carlson

Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

By JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson writes the weekly QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson has TV gigs in the Bay area and trains quarterbacks of all ages via his company,America’s Best Quarterback.

It is easy for anyone, even those that did not see the Bucs-Carolina game at all, to stand around the water cooler at work (if you are blessed enough to be employed) or comment on your favorite website that Josh Freeman played terribly in his FIVE interception game last Sunday.

Freeman’s performance is one of the reasons players and coaches often say that they need to look at the film before a final assessment is made. 

IN THE FILM ROOM, I DON’T THINK FREEMAN GOT A POOR OVERALL GRADE FOR HIS DAY SUNDAY!

This just in. After another look, Freeman had a very good day, very good.

Did he throw his interceptions? Yes.

Did he throw a perfect touchdown pass to Kellen Winslow? Yes.

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson says Kellen Winslow gave a second-rate effort to catch a touchdown pass against 5-10 safety Charles Godfrey

If I was the QB, I would have a big issue with Winslow’s effort at that pass in the end zone. He had a defender not looking at the ball and should have planted and caught it at a higher point over safety Charles Godfrey’s head, then the two options are TD catch or pass interference, ball at the 1 yard line.  A better effort ties the game and puts Freeman in a different position the rest of the way.

His interceptions were as follows:

1. Bad pass to Sammy Stroughter on a dig route.  Maybe Stroughter could have come out of his break a little quicker, but the ball sailed high regardless.
2. The first Beason INT was a play similar to the Super Bowl interception by Steelers’ LB James Harrison before halftime. The LB squats near the line of scrimmage and bounces back just in time to snatch it. Future Hall of Fame QB Kurt Warner got caught, so did rookie QB Josh Freeman.
3.  The second Beason INT was another bad pass, with a bad decision, as well. The ball was so underthrown, the LB way in front of the play caught it, but even if it was at his target, it would have been intercepted by the DB. He forced that one, no doubt, but didn’t see any others.
4.  This one was similar to his first, sailed on him in the middle of the field.
5. The final INT was an ill-advised choice to go for it on fourth down from the four after running on 3rd-and-5 from the five yard line. John Lynch made the point of the poor decision on the FOX broadcast. Nonetheless, after looking all over the field, Freeman finally let it go to his tallest receiver and the defender came back to the ball better than the receiver.
 
The only one that gets much criticism is the second Beason INT.  This was a bad decision and a bad throw. The others have to be measured against so many throws with “pinpoint” accuracy and his ability to avoid pressure and get rid of the ball. 

This game could have been changed significantly by sideline decisions, including taking a timeout on 3rd-and-1 in the red zone (where Caddy picked it up).
 
Josh Freeman doesn’t need to “overcome” this “horrible” outing. Freeman was relatively impressive again.

Go back and watch it again if you don’t believe me.

The QB Blast: Morris Failing At Decision-Making

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

By JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson writes the weekly QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson has TV gigs in the Bay area and trains quarterbacks of all ages via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.

Josh Freeman had his worst day as a pro Sunday. The other rookie QB’s this year have also had similar days, so it’s just a bump in the road on Freeman’s journey to reach his vast potential.

Most seem to be enamored with his “unflappable” demeanor, handling things in a very even-keeled manner as he grows up as a quarterback and begins to define his career path.

Raheem Morris’ career path is tied tightly to his big, young “gun,” but also to his defense’s performance and most importantly to his decision-making as head coach.

These decisions include coaching staff management, roster management, in-game decisions (e.g. challenges, time-outs, fourth-down calls, going for field goals vs. touchdowns or point-differential decisions). At this point in his first season, Morris has a failing grade on all of the above and doesn’t seem to be getting much better as the season progresses.

Sunday against Carolina, the Bucs were goal-to-go on third down from the 5-yard line. This is an obvious passing situation or possibly a QB draw. But the Bucs ran off-tackle from a standard two-back set and got a yard.

On fourth down from the 4-yard line (with nearly 10 minutes left in the game and a chance to cut the lead to one score) Morris chose to “go for it,” which he usually does. That was a point-differential decision that I didn’t like and that goes against traditional NFL decision-making.

With that much time on the clock, making it a one-score game was more important than the TD. The fourth down try didn’t work and kept the Bucs two scores away the rest of the day. If they had kicked the field goal, any single play could have tied the game or given Morris the chance to be “GoForIt” Raheem and go for the win with a two-point try. He never got that chance because of the earlier choice.

There are plenty of other examples of decisions, management issues, roster issues (where is Byron Leftwich, the season’s starter? Did he really hurt his elbow?), challenges, etc., that bring a cloud of questions to his abilities, but we can all make a full season evaluation in just a few short weeks.

Gruden was 0-4 last December with Derrick Brooks and others, so let’s just focus on decisions and managment issues vs. wins after this season.

The QB Blast: Receiving Corps Overhaul Needed

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009
By JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst
carlson
Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson writes the weekly QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson has TV gigs in the Bay area and trains quarterbacks of all ages via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.

Sunday’s game was great drama!

The entertainment lasted until the final second and that is what I want from my sports. Yeah, I know the Bucs lost, but it was great theater and that hasn’t been happening around here for quite a while — even before the Raheem era.

Unfortunately, after watching the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots play Monday night, it was abundantly clear that we are nowhere near competing with the best in the league now or in the near future.

This Bucs team does not have “playmakers.”

Do they have good athletes? Sure, there is athleticism running around, but the Saints and Patriots have exciting, game-changing players and even the Patriots found out that their offense isn’t enough to overcome their poor pass defense with the Saints’ non-stop offensive pressure.

So, for the forseeable years ahead, the Bucs will not compete for a division title, because the Saints are way out in front and are young. I don’t know all their contract situations for each of their players, but the Bucs’ best player is a 34-year-old cornerback.

For the Bucs to make progress in playing “catch-up” with the Saints, they need to overhaul their receiving corps and give their franchise QB something to work with.

The QB Blast: No Shot At Smashmouth Offense

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

By JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson writes the weekly QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson has TV gigs in the Bay area and trains quarterbacks of all ages via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.

Am I hearing this right?

Greg Olson is moving the Bucs offense back to Jon Gruden’s and Raheem Morris is moving the defense back to Monte Kiffin’s?

For the record, I never believed the Tampa 2 was out of vogue or couldn’t work anymore. A soft Cover 2 (corners that have flexibility in their sideline coverage) that protects the deep middle a bit with the middle linebacker is a tough defense to work a passing game against.

With a four-man defensive front, it is only great if those guys are solid and that hasn’t been the case since Warren Sapp was let go. Jim Bates’ philosophy of blitz and play man-to-man behind it never made sense for this cast of characters from the get-go. And now Morris has dumped the coordinator on both sides of the ball.

On offense, I was never a fan of Gruden’s program (always ranking in the lower half of the NFL), and I don’t like whatever hybrid Olson has been employing thus far, but I’m giving the guy a break for taking over a week before opening day.

The Bucs do not have explosive receivers like the Saints or game-breaking backs like the Panthers, Saints or Falcons, so they must begin using deception like most of the other teams in the NFL do or they will continue to flounder Sunday after Sunday.

The Bucs personnel just isn’t good enough to line up and play smash-mouth football, and that is what most of their plays are lined up to do. I have been relatively pleased with Josh Freeman’s early play, but he needs help from his play caller if they want to have any sustained success.

The QB Blast: Johnson Ideal For Dynamic Wildcat

Thursday, November 12th, 2009
Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

By JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson writes the weekly QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson has TV gigs in the Bay area and trains quarterbacks of all ages via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.

A hearty congratulations to all involved in getting the “W” Sunday for the Bucs, no doubt.

Some things of note that point to good things ahead: Raheem Morris is maturing. He did not dare the media to write a story about why the Bucs drafted Josh Freeman, unlike earlier in the year when he got worked up over a good game from Michael Clayton, only to see Clayton fade back once again.

Morris also kept the win in perspective, knowing his Bucs must go back out there Sunday and they might not get quite as much help from the defense or special teams in the scoring column.

Did you see Freeman rolling out and making positive plays — by design?

Josh Johnson is slightly more mobile than No. 5, but couldn’t get movement from the pocket unless he was chased out. Good to know that Greg Olson is evolving as a play designer.

And speaking of evolving this offense, the Bucs need to bring Josh Johnson back into it on a regular basis and develop the most dynamic form of the “Wildcat” that the NFL has seen thus far.

The Philadelphia Eagles are losing games by leaving Michael Vick out of their offense and Johnson could bring a dimension to the Bucs that could help everyone.

ESPN The Magazine’s current issue has a long story about the amazing New Orleans Saints offense, but suffice it to say the entire point of the article is to show that if you get the other team’s linebackers to take one step in the wrong direction, you have a chance at success.

When teams have equal talent, which is what the draft and salary cap are supposed to create, deception and personnel mismatches become the biggest determinants for success.

If the Bucs put Johnson in motion from a receiver position (i.e. Ricky Williams), Freeman then has the option to give it to him or fake it to him. Either way it makes the linebackers take a step that way because of Johnson’s running ability, but what he has that no other player has (except Vick) is real passing ability. This piece of the puzzle unleashes mayhem on the defense, not to mention if Freeman takes off in the opposite direction of the motion with the run/pass option as well.

I don’t know how long it will take Olson to read this blog for the idea, but look for it somewhere down the road as other teams get a feel for Freeman’s assets and liabilities and start to take advantage.

The QB Blast: Numbers Reveal Long Odds

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson writes the weekly QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson has TV gigs in the Bay area and trains quarterbacks of all ages via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.

As the Bucs took some time off after their return to the U.S.A. to reflect on the first half of the season, I thought about it as well, but decided at 0-7, I needed to keep working to find hope for success as their retro uniforms return for the very first time on Sunday.

The obvious comparisons to the early days of the franchise are too easy right now.  But come Sunday, they will be honoring their only Hall-Of-Famer, who suffered through that first winless season and also led them to division titles shortly thereafter and all the way to the NFC Championship game in 1979.

So, no matter how bleak it looks today, there is hope in sight. Isn’t there?

With the extra time, I decided to crunch some 2009 QB numbers, and see what it might look like on Sunday for Josh Freeman, when he takes the reins of this franchise.

The two other first round rookie QBs (Lions’ Matthew Stafford and Jets’ Mark Sanchez) have started from the first game of the season and have posted mediocre results. The Jets started 3-0, but have fallen to 4-4 as his passing efficiency has dropped significantly. The two top picks average .85 TD passes per game (less than 1 per game), while throwing 1.13 INT’s. They combine for a 64.8 passer efficiency rating.

I also looked at teams in the NFL with just a single win thus far (Titans, Chiefs, Rams, Cleveland) and found eerily similar numbers with or without a veteran quarterback under center. The average passing efficiency of 62.65 is almost identical to the rookies’ and their TD-pass average per game is slightly lower (.73) than the rookies’. The INT rate is 1.1. 

If Josh Freeman keeps up with his more experienced peers, he is not likely to throw a touchdown pass on Sunday, but will absolutely throw a pick.

Most of those QB’s have had a pick returned for a TD and Freeman’s pick will also have a decent chance of that or at least leading to points for Green Bay.  By the way, the combination of Leftwich and Johnson put up 1.14 TD’s per game, but are up a bit higher than their competitors’ INT rate at 1.57. Their efficiency rating is 61.05, right on the number for the other QB’s having rough seasons.

On the other hand, Aaron Rodgers (one of my favorites in the league) of the Green Bay Packers has put up some of the best numbers in the NFL with 14 TDs and only 2 INT’s. His 110 QB rating is tops in the entire league, just ahead of Peyton Manning.

The +12 difference between his TD’s and INT’s is only surpassed by guess who? Brett Favre is at +13, leading the 7-1 Vikings. The only thing not working for the Packers offense is their pass blocking. Against the Vikings last weekend, Rodgers got dropped six times and leads the league in getting sacked. When he gets some protection or creates some for himself, he has very good agility. The Packers offense is very good through the air averaging 2 TD’s per game, with only a .28 chance of throwing one to the other team.

To sum up all of these numbers, the Bucs are likely to throw a pick, possibly for six, so we’ll give the Packers 3 points for that. The Bucs are unlikely  to throw a TD, but the Packers should expect to throw two, another 14 points. So, the QB differential going into Sunday is 17 points for the Packers, based solely on QB stats from other teams with similar records and on the two other QB’s picked ahead of Josh Freeman.

The Bucs running game hasn’t proven to put up 17 points yet, so it doesn’t look good for our boys in orange this weekend, regardless if you like Bucco Bruce or not.

Good luck Josh — and I mean that sincerely.

The QB Blast: Assessing Josh Johnson

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009
carlsonBy JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst
 
Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson writes the weekly QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson has TV gigs in the Bay area and trains quarterbacks of all ages via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.

In July I wrote a note to Raheem Morris with my analysis of his QBs.

Don’t know if he ever read it or not. He never called.

Of Josh Johnson, I wrote: 

1. Has the best whip of any of your QBs, but plays with his thowing elbow in front of his ball too much. Watch his ball in “pat and go” warm-ups. His ball will float with the tip up in the air most of the time, giving DB’s more time to react. It will also be less
accurate with any kind of wind. 

2. Needs to loosen up his upper body while he drops back. He is very robotic on the drop-back and should bring his elbows back down closer to his sides and bring the ball back down to the middle of his chest (keep the tip of the ball down below the back of the ball through the whole delivery–this will cure his floaters).

After Johnson’s four-start stint as the starting QB, I wouldn’t change much of my early assessment, but Johnson did get a bit more fluid in general. He did throw quite a few wobbly balls that floated with the front tip in the air and he would do better to learn to keep the tip of the ball down before release to get more accurate.

I believe Johnson he has very good potential in this league.

Some will write him off because of his draft status and the head coach trying to label him a career backup. Of course, he could have made better throws and better decisions in some cases, but overall I critique the play-calling of Greg Olson for not taking advantage of any of Johnson’s physical attributes.

How bout a rollout?

Pat White was a second round pick to the Dolphins and is getting spot play in the “Wildcat.” Johnson is a better passer and probably a better runner, as well. Could the Bucs not have had a receiver or back go in fast motion (like Ricky Williams for Miami) and create some deception and roll Johnson out the opposite way and help create space for their recievers?

Could they not have intentionally rolled him out on just ONE play in his four games of getting chased from the pocket?

Johnson’s interception returned for a TD on the fifth play last Sunday against the Patriots was his fault, but I heard it explained on radio this week as a “hot” read from a blitz. It wasn’t.

It went back to my last QB Blast and the Bucs lack of throwing the ball down the field.

The Patriots did their film homework. They left the middle receiver of a “trips” set “uncovered” by a safety 10 yards off the ball. This would have been a completion for the Bucs if Johnson had been under center — Tom Brady picks these plays up all of the
time – but Johnson was in shotgun, took his eyes off that area to catch the ball, took an extra step and the safety “sat” and then timed it perfectly.

This is one of the reasons Jon Gruden was so late in using the shotgun formation.  It gives up a lot of quick passes to uncovered receivers.  The Patriots and Colts are still under center quite a bit to take advantage in this situation.

Unfortunately for the Bucs, both QB and coach are inexperienced in those situations.

I don’t know if Josh Johnson is smart or if he knows the offense very well as has been published, but he has physical tools that few have had in this league – ever.

With some technique training to his delivery and more film study, he could be a very good starting QB in this league one day.

I hope Josh Freeman took copious notes, because there were plenty of inexperienced mistakes that Freeman does not need to make.

But it all looks quite different from the sideline compared to behind the line — trust me, I know.