The QB Blasts: Play Johnson & Freeman TogetherSeptember 29th, 2010
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.
The Buccaneers ran into a better team on Sunday. They were beaten soundly by a team playing without its best quarterback directing the offense.
If the Bucs and Steelers played 10 more times, no one would be surprised if the Steelers won all 10, even though beating a team twice in a row is quite difficult. Luckily for all of us, they don’t have to see Pittsburgh again, but they will have to see New Orleans and Atlanta twice, as well as the Ravens. Playing other teams that don’t have it quite all together (Rams, Cardinals, Lions, 49ers) give us hope that there are a few more wins to be had this year.
But, what to do about competing with the better teams in the league? Pound the rock more?
I read and hear that message from some and always think to myself it sounds good, but how many times can you pound yourself into the same wall and leave yourself in long third-down situations before you realize something must change?
I can’t imagine many people making the argument that Cadillac Williams is better than the defenders coming at him. Titans running back Chris Johnson is better than his defenders. Johnson can create space and yards on his own. Cadillac needs help. The Bucs’ offensive line needs help to create gaps in the defensive front seven defenders. That happens through effective play-calling and deceptive play design.
Currently, the Bucs aren’t incorporating much deception into their running game. Thus their personnel isn’t good enough to line up and run downhill effectively enough to give Josh Freeman and his youthful receivers short third-down-or-less situations — or fewer third-downs altogether by actually running for a first down once in a while and giving the play-caller more flexibility on first and second downs for good play-action passing.
What is needed is Josh Johnson to be incorporated into this offense to bring some jazz and pizzazz.
And even if it doesn’t work, at least it will be more entertaining than the status quo. I brought up this subject in the past and obviously haven’t been listened to, but the Bucs messed around with Johnson in some “Wildcat” situations in training camp and were successful against the Bucs’ defense, which I would suppose might give them hope that it could work against others, as well.
Again, I am not advocating taking Josh Freeman out of the game or out of the QB position. The Jets are taking their star QB out and using Brad Smith (former Missouri quarterback with qualities very similar to Johnson) very successfully and the Philadelphia Eagles are reaping the benefits of using Michael Vick’s elusiveness to create massive holes in the defense and a whole heck of a lot of excitement for Eagles’ fans. I am specifically talking about using Johnson in motion from a receiver position.
The Bucs’ running game would immediately improve, if they started bringing Johnson behind the formation quickly and either tossing it to him for a run/pass option, putting linebackers and defensive backs in bad positions of having to choose to tackle the elusive Johnson, thus leaving receivers open for big plays or Johnson open to pick up big gains with his legs.
This threat would also help the offensive line create more creases and cutback lanes for Cadillac Williams, as the defensive line has to help stop more wide running plays and tiring as the game goes on when Williams seems to get better. The defensive line would also have to slow its pass rush to deal with the fast east/west movement of the offense, which would see the quarterback moving the pocket around more often.
For a few years now, the NFL has been evolving into a QB dominant league (Colts, Saints, Cardinals, Patriots) and pounding the rock has diminished as teams have found moving the ball a bit easier by design than by brute force.
I don’t see the Bucs being very successful as a brute force kind of offensive line, even though they do have some “nasty” in them at times.
Giving them a little help with a little misdirection now and then sure can’t hurt their rushing average, but it sure would help a lot of things, including keeping the ball out of the other team’s hands and improving defensive statistics, as well.
Now even a defensive head coach could get down with that. Getting Josh Johnson on the field against the Bengals will help take the ball out of Cincinnatti’s receiving dynamic duo and could give the Bucs their own dynamic duo.