Assessing the Damage: Breaking Down All 17 of Josh Freeman’s 2012 Interceptions

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Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Interception 5: Week 6 against the Kansas City Chiefs, Tied in the 1st Quarter

This play was doomed from the start. Dallas Clark was sent in motion across the field, and Josh never took his eyes off of him. Clark ran a slow, shallow route into the flat, and Freeman floated out a pass that was undercut and picked off by the KC defense. The throw would have needed to be PERFECT to connect with Clark on such a route (there’s no separation or trickery here, it’s a basic route to the flat that has to be thrown a long distance for such a short potential gain), and Freeman had a better option (Vincent Jackson on a drag route) that he never even considered.

Verdict: Not the best playcall, but Freeman made it worse by locking into a receiver and not even beginning to read through his progressions.

Interception 6: Week 11 against the Carolina Panthers, Up 10 in the 1st Quarter

On this play, Josh Freeman steps back and has a clean pocket to throw from, but was looking short to Dallas Clark who wasn’t looking back for a pass at all. His route was leading him a few yards down the field where he would turn around for a catch, but the timing was off, and Freeman had to scramble backwards and throw fading away from the play. As he usually does when throwing while moving away from the play, he sails the pass over Clark’s head for an easy interception.

Verdict: Freeman may have had an option deep on the other side of the field, but had locked in on Clark and the other receivers to his right. The play was on third down, and in field goal range, so a sack would have made it a tougher field goal, but the pass was never going to gain enough yards for a first down. This was a poor decision and poor fundamentals from Freeman.

Interception 7: Week 11 against the Carolina Panthers, Down 4 in the 3rd Quarter

Coming off of a big stop on a fake punt, the Buccaneers went to the air for a big play on offense. Freeman has plenty of room to throw from the pocket, as he deals well with an outside rush by stepping forward into his throw. Vincent Jackson was his intended target downfield, and there was either a miscommunication or just the worst of throws by Josh Freeman, as Freeman left the ball well short of Jackson. Vincent was streaking towards the back-left pylon and expecting a throw to that area, but the throw came in short, as if Jackson was going to come back or cut towards the sidelines.

Verdict: Freeman may have just made a poor throw, or there may have been a disconnect between he and his best receiver (this will happen later, so it’s not unprecedented to consider).

Interception 8: Week 13 against the Denver Broncos, Down 10 in the 3rd Quarter

Josh Freeman was put in a bad, bad place here. He was feeling pressure from his blind side, and had only Vincent Jackson in his view. There are 3 Bronco defenders playing short on that side, with Jackson as the only receiver, and there’s also a safety helping up top on Jackson. Freeman faces pressure and tries to throw to get rid of the ball, and it would have likely been intercepted anyways as Jackson was well covered. But to make matters worse, he’s hit as he throws. There was no other throw to make, and taking a sack would have been better. He couldn’t have thrown left without facing a blitzer in his face and more good, short coverage to correspond with the pressure he was facing.

Verdict: The Broncos played amazing defense on this play, but Freeman still could have made a better throw to throw the ball away, or could have simply taken a sack. It was a forced throw that turned into an awful throw thanks to pressure.

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Topics: Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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  • RussMillerWY

    Great analysis! I’m grateful for the time and effort you put into writing such a useful article.

    I was surprised to notice so many of the picks were on throws to Clark and to Underwood. Freeman often has Jackson as his first target in the progression, so I suppose it seems to me like Freeman is often staring Jackson down on most of his throws. This would explain why the Bucs blew off Clark this year, but not why they didn’t make moves to significantly upgrade the TE and #3 WR positions.

    My conclusion? All quarterbacks make mistakes. This year Pro Bowl veterans Tony Romo and Drew Brees threw more than Freeman, 19 each, while Matthew Stafford threw the same number, 17. The interception bonanzas against the Saints and Rams were embarrassing, but these were also the games in which quite a few of the interceptions were not Freeman’s fault. Bottom line: had Freeman been more perfect, they might have pulled out victories against the Rams and Giants. However, the Bucs’ utter lack of any credible pass defense often put the offense in situations where they had to make desperate comebacks with desperate throws. Sometimes, as against Carolina, Freeman made brilliant throws that only a handful of qbs could ever make, one of them to the aging Clark, to prevent disaster.

    A 27:17 TD to interception ratio is less than ideal, but it is typical of strong-armed quarterbacks in “let’s chuck it deep” systems like the ones Brett Favre, Terry Bradshaw, and Ben Roethlisberger have played in. Big Ben has slowly improved his TD:INT ratio over time, but Favre and Bradshaw were always streaky and often had much worse ratios than we’ve seen any of Freeman’s seasons. Yet look where they are now. If the Bucs give up on Freeman, some other team will make him their Hall of Fame qb, and we’ll always have some other less-than-perfect QB to scapegoat when we come up short.

    • LeoTPP

      Yeah, I have to imagine Clark’s inability to fight for the ball on a few plays that turned into picks was a frustration point for the Bucs. And yes, QB’s make mistakes, as do his players (like DJ Ware, for an obvious example). Josh just made a bunch of mistakes over the course of two weeks and it inflated his numbers greatly. Will be interesting to see how he bounces back.

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