QB Josh Freeman, Free agent
HT: 6-2, WT: 248, Born: 1-13-1988, College: Kansas State, Drafted: Round 1, Pick 17
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It's hard to believe Josh Freeman was considered one of the league's talented young signal callers just a few seasons ago. Yet in 2010, at 22 years old, Freeman led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 10-6 record, completing 61% of his passes with 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions. Since then the wheels have come off, inclusive of a woeful midseason move to the Minnesota Vikings last year. The Giants brought Freeman in to compete for the QB2 role, but he only lasted six weeks on the roster.
2013 Game Summaries
Week 1 - Freeman turned in an another inconsistent performance against the Jets on opening weekend. At times, he looked in command of the offense, while making correct reads. However, he forced bad passes and often failed to communicate with receivers and lineman on several occasions. While backed up against their own endzone, Freeman received an unexpected snap as he was still making checks at the line of scrimmage. The ball bounced around in the back of the endzone before Freeman kicked it through the endzone for the safety. Despite only being sacked three times, Freeman was pressured often. The offensive line struggled mightily, especially left tackle Donald Penn. Freeman's lack of trust in the line became apparent on a zone blitz when the Jets brought both the corner and nickel corner from the left side. Freeman panicked, then immediately sailed the ball over the head of Vincent Jackson, who was running a skinny post, and into the waiting arms of Dawan Landry. Freeman did succeed at certain moments. Early in the game, he completed his lone touchdown pass to Mike Williams. Williams beat bump and run coverage down the left sideline and the offensive line allowed Freeman just enough time to sling a sidearm throw between a trailing corner and converging safety. Freeman's main target on the afternoon was Vincent Jackson. He targeted Jackson 13 times, including a hot route in which Jackson intelligently cut his route off after his man blitzed. Freeman hit Jackson on a 5 yard hitch which Jackson turned into a huge gain. Freeman again hit Jackson for a 40-yard gain when he made a double move on a post pattern in single coverage. Freeman's success depended heavily on the offensive line. When they picked up blitzers and gave him time to make his reads, Jackson and Williams broke free and made plays, but he was often hurried into erratic throws. Freeman had trouble rolling left, including a pass intended for Jackson that bounced five yards before the target. Freeman had issues with pretty much every type of throw, however. He sailed slants, overthrew sideline routes, and missed Martin on swing passes. The inability of the offensive line to keep the Jets from getting penetration hindered the entire offenses ability to gel from the get go.
Week 2 - Raymond James Stadium was the setting for another Josh Freeman debacle. Severe weather delayed the game for about an hour and I'd bet Schiano and Freeman wish is was cancelled all together. Freeman again turned in an erratic performance with passes skipping in the dirt and sailing over receivers' heads. He threw a very costly interception in the second half. From a single back set, Freeman faked a stretch run and set up in the pocket to go through his reads. The Saints defense broke through the line and pressured Freeman which cause a mechanical error from Freeman. He threw from his back foot for Vincent Jackson running a deep cross over the middle, but the lack of zing on the ball allowed Malcom Jenkins to cut off the throw for an easy interception. Freeman's turnover problems didn't end there. Early in the third quarter, Freeman's internal clock failed to alert him he had been patting the ball in the pocket for a solid five seconds. As a result, Cameron Jordan eventually beat Donald Penn around the left end for the strip sack. Both turnovers killed somewhat promising drives. Freeman's body language and enthusiasm lacked any type of emotion. He seemed to have difficulty in checking plays at the line of scrimmage. Many of the audibles didn't pan out. Only completing 9 passes on the day, there wasn't much good about Freeman's day, but he did show a few flashes. The Buccaneers lined up in a Trips Right formation inside the Saints ten. At the snap, the two inside receivers both ran square outs to create traffic. It worked as Kevin Ogletree came free on a drag route towards the middle of the field because his defender got caught in the bunch up of Bucs' receivers. Freeman also showed the ability to create when the play breaks down. As he dropped back against man coverage, he noticed all defensive backs had their backs turned running with receivers and he took off straight up the gut for 13 yards before sliding safely for the first down. Overall, Freeman's struggle with accuracy and going through his progressions continue to plague him. However, in fairness, he did lead the Bucs down the field for a game winning drive. He hit Jackson twice for 18 yards and 22 yards to set up a go ahead field goal, which Rian Lindell ultimately shanked.
Week 3 - Freeman delivered more of the same week 3 in Foxboro. Freeman appears hesitant to trust what he sees developing in front of him. Freeman is playing very conservative, like a guy afraid to make a mistake. Freeman turned in a dreadful 5.75 yards per pass attempt. Quarterbacks are coached to put the ball where only their guy can get it, whether that be on the back shoulder to avoid an inside corner, a low ball in the dirt to a sliding receiver, or a lob to a tall tight end like Jimmy Graham. Freeman has consistently placed his throws where nobody can catch it. Another week of sailed out routes and skipped comebacks fill Freeman's pass chart. He doesn't want to trust his reads and make throws with anticipation, instead he ends up just avoiding every player on the field all together with de facto throw aways. His lone turnover came on from under-center on a trips right formation. The Patriots were playing Cover 2 with straight man underneath. Vincent Jackson matched up with CB Talib from the slot. Freeman locked in on Jackson the entire way as he ran a 10-yard out route. Talib undercut the route as Jackson broke to the sideline for the easy pick. Freeman may have found a target to add to his weaponry in Eric Page. His nicest completion of the day came on a 30-yard gain to Page. From the shotgun in a twins right formation, Freeman lofted a floater to Page who had beat press man coverage down the sideline. Page then rumbled for yards after the catch. The Bucs' game plan seemed to be to pick on Pats' CB Dennard. They often threw away from Talib. On the first drive, Freeman placed a nice ball over the defensive backs reach, dropping into the hands of Mike Williams down the left side line. He also hit Williams on a slant from a quick 3-step drop. Freeman had some nice timing on a square in to Jackson on the first play of the third quarter as well. He recognized the Pats' were playing soft coverage and slung the ball into Jackson as soon as he broke inside. The receivers struggled for most of the day beating the press man-to-man coverage from the Patriots. Overall, Freeman played conservative throwing the ball away or throwing uncatchable passes when pressured. The Patriots' strategy worked well. They left their corners man-to-man with safety help over the top and basically kept everything infront of them all day, while allowing Wilfork to eat up the middle and the linebackers to make plays in the running game. Freeman didn't have an answer.
Week 7 - It didnít take long for the truth to become abundantly clearóJosh Freeman was not ready to play. Having just been signed 15 days ago and with a handful of practices with the first offense, Freeman had zero chemistry with his receivers, resulting in wildly inaccurate, often ludicrously high, overthrown passes. Even when he threw a good pass, bad things happened, such as with a Jerome Simpson drop on a 40-yard pass which would have been a touchdown. Freeman also caused his own problems with great frequency, such as when he threw an interception to safety Antrel Rolle early in the third quarter. On that play, tight end Kyle Rudolph was well covered on an intermediate route but Freeman heaved the ball in his general direction anyway to avoid taking the sack. The ball was overthrown and Rolle made a spectacular one-handed interception. It was a poor decision all the way around, because while Freeman might have been sacked, he would have lost minimal yards, still had a down to work with and, at worst, been forced to kick a field goal from a reasonable length. Instead he turned the ball over and was lucky the Giants offense couldnít convert it to any points. The gameplan didnít help Freemanís cause as the Vikings inexplicably abandoned the run with Adrian Peterson carrying the ball just five times in the second half (13 times total). To ask a new quarterback with just a handful of classes under his belt to throw 53 times is asking too much of almost any quarterback, much less a guy who hadnít thrown a ball in about a month. As icing on the cake the Vikings kept making horrible mistakes on special teams as well, fumbling two kicks away to the Giants and generally doing the offense and defense no favors in terms of field position. Itís hard to know how much of the awfulness was because of Freeman and how much was Freeman not being placed in a situation where he could succeed.