By Max Luckan
Josh Freeman, QB, #5
Weight: 240 lbs.
Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri
College: Kansas State
Experience: 4 years
After significantly regressing in 2011, many questioned whether Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman had all the tools to be a consistent starter in the NFL. Freeman took that criticism personally, and decided to get in shape in the offseason and work diligently to improve all facets of his game. So far in 2012, that hard work appears to be paying off. Freeman has thrown for 2,505 yards and 21 touchdowns, with only seven interceptions to his credit. He’s led the Bucs to a 6-4 record and has them in contention for a playoff spot.
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Freeman was exposed to football at a young age, as his dad, and agent, Ron Freeman, played linebacker in the USFL. Josh Freeman attended Grandview High School and threw for over 7,000 yards during his time there. Coming out of high school, Freeman was rated as a four-star prospect (out of five) by both Rivals.com and Scout.com.
Freeman was highly touted out of high school, ranked as the ninth best quarterback nationally, and elected to play college football at Kansas State, where he accumulated a school-record 8,427 total yards and as a quarterback, threw 44 touchdowns and 34 interceptions. In 2006, Freeman earned honorable mention freshman All-America honors from The Sporting News.
In 2009, the Bucs selected Freeman with the 17th overall pick in the draft and later signed him to a five-year, $26 million contract. Freeman became the starter in 2010, which is when he led the Bucs to a 10-6 record, but as aforementioned, regressed in 2011 when the Bucs finished 4-12.
While Freeman arguably hasn’t garnered the coveted “elite” status yet, he has helped lead a young Bucs team that has slowly improved this season.
Freeman’s 2011 season, in which he threw 22 interceptions, wasn’t at all indicative of his overall talent and ability, but more a result of a lack of comfort in the system, as is evident when analyzing the tape. On tape, there aren’t many stark differences between last year and this year for Freeman, besides, of course, his weight loss. Nothing has drastically changed, but there appears to simply be a smarter, more confident QB under center for the Bucs this year.
Freeman, himself, said that this year he’s been getting “back to the basics,” which has boosted his confidence. The additions of Vincent Jackson and Dallas Clark have assisted with that as well.
As the Bucs continue to push for a playoff berth, and have tough games against the Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos on the horizon, they will have to rely on their young quarterback, who has flourished under head coach Greg Schiano and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan so far.
But in order for the Bucs to rise to the next tier in terms of teams to be reckoned with, Freeman will have to be able to compare himself statistically to the likes of Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, his division rivals, something he has shown that he’s capable of doing.
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Max Luckan lives in Tampa, FL and is a sports writer covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and NFL. Luckan has been covering the Buccaneers for a few years now. You can find more of his work at Examiner.com.