Tag:Josh Freeman
Posted on: October 12, 2011 10:26 pm
 

With Blount likely out, time for Earnest Graham

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

It’s looking less and less like Buccaneers running back LeGarrette Blount, who injured his knee late in Sunday’s blowout loss to the 49ers, will play this Sunday.

Which means that it’s probably going to be Earnest Graham time.

"You guys know Earnest has done everything for us,'' quarterback Josh Freeman said, via the St. Petersburg Times. "Whether it's playing fullback, being the third down back and now this week he's going to get the majority of the reps, the majority of the carries. I mean, he's done it before...he's a guy we know can get it done.''

Blount ranks 15th in the NFL with 338 rushing yards this season. In the past three years, Graham has combined for 249 yards, though to be fair, rushing the ball hasn’t been his role the past few seasons.

I’d also be interested to see if Kregg Lumpkin – who seems to have caught the coaches’ eyes in recent weeks – earns more carries in Blount’s absence.

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Posted on: October 5, 2011 11:17 am
Edited on: October 6, 2011 4:59 pm
 

Film Room: Panthers vs. Saints preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



The Saints are 3-1 but it’s the 1-3 Panthers creating most of the chatter. Or, Cam Newton creating the chatter. Through a quarter of his rookie season, the No. 1 overall pick is, in a word, sensational. But obviously not perfect. The Panthers are still dwelling in the basement of the NFC South.

Here’s a comprehensive look at Newton and his club as they head into their first divisional showdown of the season.



1. How good is he, really?
Through four games, Newton has far exceeded all expectations. Remarkably, this includes expectations about his physical talents. We knew the 6’5”, 245-pound Auburn Tiger was an athletic monster, but rarely are quarterbacks still athletic monsters once they reach the NFL. Newton has been a productive runner, both with power and speed.

He’s a poor man’s Vick when it comes to eluding tacklers and a poor man’s Roethlisberger when it comes to shedding them. That’s a rich combination considering no other quarterback truly exhibits any of these traits (save for maybe Josh Freeman shedding defenders).

Most impressive, however, is that Newton has not leaned on his athleticism. Operating almost exclusively out of shotguns, he’s been a willing and poised statuesque passer who willingly works through his progressions from the pocket. His decisions are usually capped off by a bullet either downfield, outside the numbers (he has the uncanny arm strength to stretch the field both horizontally and vertically) or, if need be, underneath.

For the most part, Newton’s decisions have been good. He has faced an aggressive blitzing defense in Arizona, a classic 3-4 press defense in Green Bay (playing without Tramon Williams, the Packers kept Charles Woodson outside and blitzed far less often than usual that game) and, most recently, a classic Cover 2 defense in Chicago. He posted a legit 370-plus yards passing against all three of them.

The proof that it’s not all daisies and roses is that Newton also threw crucial interceptions in all three games and came away with a loss. He’s still a rookie and still prone to the occasional blunder. The blunders have been far less frequent than anyone expected, but they’ve been costly nevertheless.

2. Panthers dual tight ends
We assumed that with tight ends Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen, Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski would craft a dink-and-dunk, run-first system. Indeed, the Panthers have kept two tight ends on the field a majority of the time, but often, at least one of them (usually Olsen) has split out, serving essentially as a No. 3 receiver.

This poses serious personnel issues for defenses. Leave your base three-linebacker unit on the field and risk getting burned through the air (Shockey and Olsen have been superb downfield route runners the first four weeks). Use your nickel personnel and you risk getting run on by a team that always has a top-10 running back on the field.

The Saints are one of the few defenses that have an answer for this: strong safety Roman Harper. He is their second best run defender (behind Jonathan Vilma) and a demon in the box. He’s versatile enough to play press man coverage (he’s not particularly good at it, but Gregg Williams feels comfortable using him sporadically in this capacity) or blitz (3.5 sacks on the season).
 
Expect the Panthers in Week 5 to continue to be pass-first with their tight ends. And expect the Saints to not simply react to this, but rather, to attack by changing up what they do with Harper throughout the game in order to get Newton thinking.

3. Running Impact
Newton is the first quarterback since Vick to pose a veritable threat as a runner (Vince Young can’t be counted as a running threat quarterback because he was such a limited passer that defenses could get away with putting nine in the box against him; not a chance that happens against Newton). Having a running threat under center does wonders for your rushing attack.

The Panthers have all the resources to pound teams on the ground – DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are an excellent duo, center Ryan Kalil can lock defenders at both the first and second level, left tackle Jordan Gross is a Pro Bowler and right tackle Jeff Otah flashed his old power against Chicago last week. But for whatever reason, Chudzinski has not gone in that direction. Carolina is averaging 25.5 rushing attempts per game, tied for 18th in the NFL.

Chudzinski would be wise to change this. The threat that Newton poses really opens things up. We saw this on the third play of the game against Chicago last week:


4. What Newton will see from Saints D
The Saints have one of the most aggressive defenses in football – both in terms of execution and presnap disguise. That has a lot to do with the trust Gregg Williams has in his secondary. Jabari Greer is one of the best ball-man corners in the game. Patrick Robinson had a rough Week 1 at Green Bay but has come on the last few outings (he was phenomenal at Jacksonville).

Playmaker Tracy Porter was eased back into action last week – he missed two games with a calf injury – and should see more snaps Sunday. When you factor in free safety Malcom Jenkins’ range, the Saints clearly have the resources to handle a Panthers’ wide receiving corps that is underwhelming outside of Steve Smith.

Dealing with the tight ends might be an issue, but Roman Harper’s versatility could cause Newton to question that matchup at times. How will Newton react when he sees Harper leave Olsen or Shockey and blitz? The simple answer would be, “He’ll throw to Olsen or Shockey”. But if you and I can predict this, so can Gregg Williams.

The Saints are one of the best green dog blitzing defenses in the league. (A green dog blitz is when a linebacker has a running back man-to-man, sees that the running back is staying in to pass protect and so he goes after the quarterback in response.) These blitzes can be hard to recognize because they come unexpectedly and late in the action.
 
When blitzing is not involved, Carolina’s offensive line can contain a Saints pass-rush that has been hit-or-miss early this season (the return of end Will Smith certainly helps). Thus, expect Gregg Williams to go after Newton and get him guessing before the snap. Many of Williams’ blitzes come out of nickel personnel packages. The Saints used their nickel later in the game against the Texans to counter the receiving impact of Houston’s two tight ends (Owen Daniels and James Casey). Don’t be surprised if they refer to their nickel early against the Panthers’ two-tight end offense.

5. The other side of the ball
The Saints have remade their offense this season. It now runs through Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham. Sproles has been better for the Saints than Reggie Bush ever was (much better, in fact). That could be in part because Sproles doesn’t yet draw the attention that Bush drew. But more than anything, it’s because he has lightning quick feet and an understanding for how to create and exploit spacing in both the run and pass game.

Graham is the dynamic athlete we all knew he’d be after his 2010 debut. It just so happens that the ex-power forward is developing much quicker than expected. He’s a mismatch for any linebacker, has the size to out-position defensive backs and has better hands than Robert Meachem (who is now the fourth option in this pass offense, behind Sproles, Graham and, when healthy, Marques Colston).

Panthers strong safety Charles Godfrey has been stellar in coverage this season and can compete with Graham, but the Panther linebackers (who are really missing Jon Beason) will have trouble with Sproles. Carolina’s best hope is to get pressure on Brees early in the down.

Defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy are capable of embarrassing New Orleans’ athletic but grossly unreliable tackles Jermon Bushrod and Charles Brown. But Brees knows this and is also capable of adjusting.

So who will win? Check our Week 5 NFL expert picks for all the games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: September 2, 2011 1:09 pm
 

Bucs season opener could be blacked out



Posted by Ryan Wilson

The Buccaneers won 10 games last season, have a young coach in Raheem Morris, a franchise quarterback in Josh Freeman, and have earned the right to be talked about as a possible playoff team. And come Sunday, September 11, when they host the Lions (this year's dark-horse candidate to make the postseason) in the 2011 regular-season opener they will almost certainly play before a less-than-capacity crowd. Which for Tampa-area residents means that unless you're at Raymond James Stadium you won't see the game because it will be blacked out.

Details via Scott Reynolds of PewterReport.com "The number of tickets sold for the Bucs vs. Lions game … is close to 50,000 and it is nearly impossible to expect that the team will sell 15,000 more seats by Thursday to meet the NFL-mandated 72 hours prior to kickoff time frame to lift blackouts in the local television market of home teams."

It gets worse. Reynolds reports that the team hasn't yet announced any of the 2011 home games as sold out.

"The best chances of any home sellouts," Reynolds continued, "would occur for the Indianapolis Colts game on ESPN’s Monday Night Football on October 3 and the December 17 game against Dallas on NFL Network’s Saturday Night Football. Ticket sales for those games are outpacing the sales for the season opener, and there is a chance those contests may sell out and have the local TV blackout lifted if the team has a hot start because those contests are later in the season."

So there's that.

The bigger issue, of course, is that despite the NFL being more popular than ever, and the increased demand for the sport created by the lockout, the Bucs aren't close to filling seats for the first game of the season.

Attendance problems are nothing new for the Bucs, however. As PFT.com's Michael David Smith notes "If the Buccaneers wanted to, they could buy back all the unsold tickets at 34 percent of face value to get the blackout lifted. By a back-of-the-envelope estimate of 10,000 tickets at $100 each, it would cost the Buccaneers $340,000 to lift the blackout. That’s not much money to the billionaire Glazer family, owners of the Buccaneers — especially considering how much money the Bucs are saving this season by having a payroll that’s nearly $30 million under the salary cap."

Short of that, the team has reduced ticket prices and given stadium concession discounts in an effort to drum up demand. So far, it's not working.

There is a silver lining, though; unlike last year, when every Bucs home game was blacked out, fans can be assured that at least one home game will be televised locally this season. Tampa Bay will face the Bears in London, and even though the Bucs are considered the home team, because it will be played some 4,400 miles from Raymond James Stadium, it will be shown in the Tampa area.

Now if the NFL could just get all of the Bucs' games moved to Europe blackouts wouldn't be a problem.

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Posted on: July 11, 2011 11:47 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2011 12:02 am
 

Josh Freeman talks Bucs, lockout, FA's, Tiki

Posted by Will Brinson

Josh Freeman had a hell of a season in 2010, nearly leading the Buccaneers to the playoffs as Tampa Bay posted a surprising 10-win season.

We had a chance to catch up with the Bucs quarterback over the weekend at Nike's 7-on-7 tournament, "The Opening," and we asked him about the Bucs' future, how they're building long-term, whether he thinks Tiki Barber would be a good fit with the team, how he'd feel if the Bucs were spenders when it came to free agents and how he manages to keep cranking out fourth-quarter comebacks.



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Posted on: June 30, 2011 8:58 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2011 9:05 pm
 

Gerald McCoy is buddies with Goodell

Smith and GoodellPosted by Josh Katzowitz

After NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith spoke with the incoming rookie class at the NFLPA symposium in Bradenton, Fla., earlier this week, the two decided to catch a little Buccaneers player-led workout action.

And somebody was REALLY happy to see Goodell.

That would be rookie DT Gerald McCoy, who hugged Goodell at the NFL draft and then bear-hugged him again during the practice.

"I don't know how my teammates feel about me right now," McCoy joked to the St. Petersburg Times. "I was his friend before the lockout. I'm not going to not be his friend because of the lockout. … But he was with Smith, so that's a good sign. I'm optimistic about that. When I saw him, I gave him a hug and everybody was like, 'Really?' I don't care. They'll get over it."

Maybe they won’t get over it as quick as McCoy would like, especially after the report by CBSSports.com’s Mike Freeman about the stalled negotiations from today -- after all, McCoy was fraternizing with the so-called enemy.

Other than McCoy, it seemed like players kept their distance from Goodell while Smith spent some time with Tampa Bay QB Josh Freeman and a few others.

But Buccaneers C Jeff Faine had one hope for Goodell -- that he saw something special while at practice.

"Hopefully what this shows to the owners is there's more to football than money," Faine said. "We're out here on our own dime, out here getting better and hopefully putting on a good product out there for our fans."

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Posted on: June 30, 2011 11:34 am
Edited on: June 30, 2011 12:04 pm
 

Freeman needs 'like a week' to get Bucs ready

Posted by Will Brinson

There's no common belief about how the lockout is affecting the preparation of NFL players -- some folks think it's going to result in a sloppy season, and others have said it'll end up producing the best football ever.

One thing is certain, though: NFL teams need some time to get ready. Well, everyone but the Buccaneers apparently -- Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman says he needs less than a fortnight to get his offense primed for the year.

“Yeah I mean I just need like a week to get us ready," Freeman said on WDAE in Tampa, via Sports Radio Interviews. It’s just a matter of staying focused cause with this lockout there’s no coach over your shoulder every day at practice coaching you. That’s a big advantage especially for young guys, but I mean you gotta hand it to Mark Dominik the type of guys he brings on this team are good, high character guys.

"They are professionals and their approach and take to the game. It allows us to get through this thing just like any other team and any other veteran team.”

Quick aside: I want some NFL player and/or sports star to start using "fortnight" randomly when doing interviews. (Freeman obviously didn't.) I feel as if that would draw a lot of "viral attention." Or something.

Anyway, so Freeman believes the Bucs can be ready in "like a week" … and I gotta say, I'm not so sure about that.

He's definitely spot-on by giving Mark Dominik praise for building a roster, because the Bucs' GM has done a killer job of flipping this team around in a short amount of time.

But reinventing a roster in a short stretch is vastly different from prepping for an entire NFL season in just a week, and it's hard to fathom that a young team like the Bucs could repeat their success from 2010 without ample preparation.

But then again, not many people saw last year coming in the first place, either.

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Posted on: March 31, 2011 1:48 pm
Edited on: March 31, 2011 6:55 pm
 

Offseason checkup: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Posted by Will Brinson

J. Freeman is the face of the Tampa Bay franchise (Getty).  

Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups. Also, check out our team-by-team podcast:





If you know anyone predicted that the Buccaneers would challenge for a divisional title and/or the playoffs, you should stop reading this immediately, buy that person a plane ticket to Las Vegas and go get your Biff Tannen on.

And even though Raheem Morris' Tampa Bay squad shocked the world, people still aren't ready to believe. That's okay, and probably a little fair until the success becomes consistent, and perhaps more, um, explicable. But sometimes wins aren't borne out by stats and Josh Freeman, an absolute star of a quarterback in the making, is a good sample of that. Freeman led the Bucs on several incredibly impressive fourth-quarter comebacks in 2010, and there's little question that he's the face of the franchise going forward.

All optimism aside, though, there's still plenty the Bucs need to address before going head-to-head against the Falcons and Saints seems like a fair fight.



Defensive line, secondary

Tampa Bay burned its first two 2010 picks on defensive tackles -- Gerald McCoy and Brian Price -- and it wouldn't be all that surprising to see the Bucs use some early selections on the defensive line again this year. Defensive end is a big need, and there's plenty of depth at the position heading into April's draft.

The secondary could be an issue for the Bucs, but it's really up in the air at the moment. That's because would-be-star cornerback Aqib Talib is dealing with "violence issues" that have manifested in the form of a "felony arrest warrant," and Tanard Jackson, suspended for substance abuse issues in 2010, is a total wild card. Ronde Barber's fine when it comes to behavior, but there's little chance he'll play after 2011.



1. Defensive end
After spending two early picks on the interior defensive line in 2010, it actually makes a ton of sense to also address the ends in 2011. And this is the perfect draft to do so with a pile of DE talent that should fall to the back end of the first round. Perhaps guys like Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan and Iowa's Adrian Clayborn would entice the Bucs.

2. Cornerback
It wouldn't seem all that prudent to suggest that the Bucs look for a "problem child" type of corner to beef up their secondary, but if someone like Jimmy Smith falls to them, they'd have to at least consider the move. (And, really, it's not fair to make any comparison with Smith's reported attitude problems and the legal issues for the current Bucs' secondary.) Alternately, don't be shocked to see them beef up the position's depth via later rounds.

3. Running Back

LeGarrette Blount had an absolutely fantastic season for Tampa (and he's blatantly going to be the guy who gets drafted too early in 2011 fantasy drafts) but there are still questions as to whether it was Tampa's scheme or Blount's skills that propelled his year. Even if it was the latter, the Bucs should look to build backfield depth in a year that's prime for doing so in the draft.



Its relatively easy to be bullish on the Bucs heading into 2011, but it's also important to remember that there is room for improvement and growth in Tampa, and with such room can come some growing pains. Of course, it's not terrible news that the draft sets up nicely in terms of depth versus need for this roster.

A repeat of 10 wins in 2011 might be a bit of a stretch, especially if Atlanta and New Orleans improve in the offseason. But discounting Morris' ability to motivate this team would be a foolish move, and there's good reason to expect continued improvement.

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Posted on: March 21, 2011 7:53 pm
 

Bucs leading candidate for Hard Knocks

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

One of the highlights of observing/reporting on training camp every year is watching Hard Knocks and seeing what mildly insane speech/interview comes out of the minds and mouths of NFL players and coaches.

There was Bengals coach Marvin Lewis’ “Be a f------ pro!” and Rex Ryan’s “Let’s go eat a g------ snack!” and Jets CB Antonio Cromartie’s struggle to remember the ages of all his children.

Quality stuff, all of it.

So, if the NFL lockout prevents training camp from starting on time – or taking place at all – another annual viewing experience will be lost. But if there IS a training camp and there IS a Hard Knocks, there’s a chance the Buccaneers could be the 2011 subject.

That’s according to ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas, who writes that Tampa Bay’s club is the leading candidate to be featured.

Coach Raheem Morris likely wouldn’t drop quite as many F-bombs as Ryan (could anybody?) but he could showcase his charisma, while the Buccaneers could focus on young players like QB Josh Freeman, RB LeGarrette Blount and WR Mike Williams.

Like just about every Hard Knocks ever produced, it would probably make for mandatory viewing.

WARNING: THE VIDEO BELOW IS NSFW WITH EXPLICIT (LIKE F-BOMBS AND EVERYTHING) LANGUAGE




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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com