Josh Freeman played a total of 13 snaps in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers preseason opener at Miami last Friday. It was enough to impress, even though eight of those 13 plays were runs: Freeman completed four of his five passes for 41 yards and led his team to a touchdown.
Freeman will likely get a little bit more time to get in a groove when the Buccaneers follow up with their second preseason game Friday night at Raymond James Stadium against the Tennessee Titans. After three weeks of watching Freeman operate the offense in training camp, Head Coach Greg Schiano is expecting good things.
"I really have been impressed," said Schiano. "I think Josh and the receivers are starting to get a really good feel; the two running backs are both performing at a high level; on the offensive line I think we're starting to mesh."
Before the team-wide struggles of 2011, Freeman and company appeared to be an offense on the rise in 2010. The Bucs believe they can get their young franchise quarterback back to where he was in his first full season as a starter, when he threw 25 touchdown passes against just six interceptions. To that end, they've added, among others, wide receiver Vincent Jackson, running back Doug Martin and All-Pro guard Carl Nicks. There are obviously plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the Bucs' offense in 2012, as Schiano appears to be, and the Buccaneers have seen confirming signs on the practice field.
"We've got a lot of weapons," said wide receiver Sammie Stroughter, who was part of that promising 2010 offense and is now trying to carve out his role in the attack once again. "A lot of people are out there making plays and it's really good to see. It's very competitive, but it's good competition."
Fifteen different players caught a pass for the Buccaneers in the Miami game, but that's obviously the result of preseason rotations and bloated camp rosters. In a typical regular-season game, the Bucs will have four or five receivers active and a handful of backs and tight ends. Schiano still expects Freeman to spread the football around in the regular season, even if he does have a brand new #1 target in Jackson.
"Well, I think we do have a number-one receiver, that's for sure," said Schiano. "But you do like the ball distributed so teams can't lock in. You know, they're going to do that, there's no doubt that people will do certain things with their coverage of Vincent. So, when that happens you need to make people pay in the other spots and then eventually get the double off Vincent if you can."