Yardbarker Horiz

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Freeman Taking A Big Step Forward

Josh Freeman, the first pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2009, has taken a big step forward this season.  This weekend, he will be completing his first "season", with a chance of reaching an even 8-8 to start his career.  But that is a small part of the story of Josh Freeman's NFL career thus far.

In his first year, Freeman did not get much time under center in training camp, nor did he start any of the first 7 games of the 2009 season.  But when the Buccaneers realized 2009 was not going to be a playoff year, they handed the reigns to the young signal caller.  Freeman took those initial lumps, some of them pretty solid, but nonetheless was the starting quarterback for all three of the Buccaneer wins in 2009.  Like any rookie, he had his ups and downs:  his most productive game was a 321 yard effort on 44 attempts against Carolina, but he was also intercepted five times that day.  His most efficient game was against Atlanta with a 118.5 quarterback rating, which was followed two weeks later by his least efficient day, a 12.1 passer rating against the Jets.  Of the nine games he played in 2009, only one did not involve an interception.  Learning on the job in the NFL is hard.

Josh Freeman - 2009
New Orleans33171263/26121333.1L
New York Jets3314933/12015312.1L
New Orleans31212713/8035268.1W

Fast forward through a full set of OTAs, a full offseason, and a full preseason as the primary signal caller, and those lumps seem to have molded a efficient young quarterback.  While Freeman's passer rating last year was erratic (high: 118.5, low: 12.1, average 59.8), this year it has been in a much tighter range (high:  102.4, low  67.1, average 82.8 through Week 7).  Josh Freeman has become more consistent at being consistent, a very important quality in the offensive leader.  He does have three picks in six games but also has seven touchdowns in the same time period making his touchdown to interception ratio better than 2:1 -- the mark of a winning quarterback.

Josh Freeman - 2010
New Orleans43252190/0127079.5L
Saint Louis40232123/23121080.4W
If you take Freeman's statistics through the first six games of 2010 and project them to the same number of games he played last year (nine), the improvement is completely obvious (see table below). The projections show nearly the same number of attempts, completions, yards, and exactly the same number of touchdowns.  However, through 9 games last season, the rookie Freeman threw 18 interceptions.  The nine game projection suggests only four interceptions over the same number of games this season.  Truly a remarkable turnaround for a young player.

Taking it one step farther, if you project Freeman's current 2010 numbers out to a 16 game season, Freeman rates out squarely in the middle of the pack among all NFL quarterbacks.  Considering the number of rookies he is working with this season as well as the learning curve he is still climbing, to finish anywhere among the top half of the league is impressive.  The numbers also show a full command of the game, with a touchdown-to-interception ratio projected to be 2.3.  In fact, among quarterbacks with more than 100 attempts so far this season, Freeman is tied for 5th lowest number of interceptions (Matt Cassel, Kansas City has 3, four others have only 2, nobody has less than two).

2010/9**298 176





* Does not include the 2 of 4, 16 yard mop-up duty against New England in Week 7, 2009 
** Estimated

Although Freeman struggled, it appears the way the Buccaneers handled Josh Freeman in his rookie year is producing big returns.  Coach Raheem Morris and General Manager Mark Dominik have stated since making Freeman their ever draft pick he was the franchise quarterback they could build a team around.  Considering Freeman's improvement after just a partial year you can only wonder where his upside levels off, and that's exactly what you want in a franchise quarterback.

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