Over the past two games Josh Freeman, the talented second year quarterback out of K-State, has posted two of his worst passer ratings of the season, an ho-hum 67.6, then last week against the Falcons it dropped to 61.4.
I personally think passer rating is a bit misleading, but in both cases the ratings came combined with lackluster games as well. Against Baltimore Freeman was at times erratic, nearly being victimized by Ed Reed a couple of times on his way to just 17 of 37 passing and a 17-10 loss. Then last weekend Freeman went 19 of 38, tossing a pick and nearly throwing away a couple more.
All things considered, Freeman’s slump could have been a lot worse. Peyton Manning is slumping right now to the tune of 11 picks in his last three games, including four that have gone for defensive touchdowns. Compare that to just one pick by Freeman over the past two games and it is at least fair to say the Bucs have done a good job of holding on to the ball while Freeman has struggled.
What’s strange though is that the Buccaneers have begun to establish the run game with great consistency as Freeman has begun to struggle. I wonder if maybe his rhythm isn’t a bit off or something. It also, and more likely, could have something to do with the caliber of the defenses he has had to face in recent weeks.
Say what you like about the Bucs receiving corps but it is still young and does still have a tendency to disappear from time to time, older, more veteran groups of defensive backs can still play with these guys some and Josh Freeman is not so established that he can’t be fooled or confused by exotic coverages and blitz packages. Long story short, this Bucs team is still a little green. Roy Cummings commented on Freeman’s drop-off in one of his columns recently.
“I just haven’t been hitting it,” said Freeman, who hit on 61 percent of his passes the first 10 games of the year but has hit on just 48 percent (36-for-75) the past two weeks.
“The Ravens game, the problem was (I) just was not hitting open guys. Then in the Falcons game, there were quite a few throw-aways and a number of plays where they just had it well covered.”
In fact, while Freeman admits that he is has been off in recent weeks, with some of his throws going high and others just not working because of other variables, but he denies that it’s a slump at all.
“Yeah, (Ravens safety) Ed Reed did make a couple of plays on some balls in Baltimore, and then last week there was the one by Brent Grimes,” he said. “But other than that, I think we’ve been really secure with the ball.
“I feel like, as far as throwing the ball and with my footwork and everything, I’ve been as sharp as I’ve been all year,” Freeman said. “So I definitely don’t think it’s a slump.”
This weekend against Washington is going to be a great opportunity for Freeman to get off of the snide and have another big game for the Buccaneers. He’ll be facing a Redskins defense that currently ranks dead last in the NFL in yardage allowed, 28th in rushing and 29th against the pass. The Buccaneers will have every opportunity to run a very balanced, very effective offensive game-plan and Freeman should have plenty of chances to make some big plays against a weak defensive unit.
If the Bucs want to make the playoffs they need to win from here on out, it will start in Washington on Sunday as the Bucs look for their offensive leader to bounce back.