Josh Freeman

Archive for October 2012

And Another One Gone

October 31, 2012 at 11:53am by Scott   •  9 Comments »

That's a lot of weight to be putting on a bad toe.

Remember how I said that Doug Martin did most of his running on the left side last week? Well, look for that to change since Carl Nicks has gone on IR because of a toe injury.

Nicks was placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a lingering toe injury requiring surgery. The Bucs said the plantar plate in Nicks’ left foot is torn. The plantar plate, near the ball of the foot, holds the toe joints together and lets toes bend.

“Toe injury” always sounds minor and everyone groans when they hear it. But before you go calling Nicks a pussy (and if you do, I’ll definitely visit you in the hospital), listen to how Ronde Barber described the injury.

“It’s been unbelievable what he’s been able to play through,” Bucs safety Ronde Barber said Tuesday on his weekly radio show on 620-AM. “It’s about the size of two golf balls.”

Which just sounds awful. So you’re not going to hear any disparagement of Nicks from me. But this puts the Bucs in a situation here.

I suppose the logical thing to do is just plug Ted Larsen in at left guard and move on with our lives. Larsen isn’t in the same league as Nicks, but there doesn’t seem to be an alternative. I suppose Larsen can play center and they can move Jeremy Zuttah to left guard, but if you remember, Zuttah isn’t that good at left guard. And if Jeremy Trueblood was going to be any good at it, he’d already be playing right guard. The other alternatives are Cody Wallace and someone named Roger Allen who I had never heard of until just this second. He’s a third-year player out of Western Missouri State, the school known nationwide as Left Guard U! So that’s it. They simply don’t have anyone else. I’m guessing Larsen starts at left guard on Sunday.

This is a huge blow. The Bucs are now without their two Pro Bowl guards. The running game will suffer but hopefully the strides Martin has made in the recent weeks can make up for it some.

Eric Wright Probably Suspended Soon

October 31, 2012 at 12:53am by Scott   •  3 Comments »

Umm, if that ball is still on its way to the receiver, I'm going to go ahead and say Wright's dry hump move is a penalty.
Word came out on Sunday that Eric Wright possibly tested positive for Adderall and if so will be suspended once all the formalities are worked out and he stops twitching uncontrollably. I say “possibly” because no one really knows and no one ever will know because that’s the rules of the PED policy. For now, he was seen riding a stationary bike on the practice field on Monday, which means he hasn’t been suspended yet. And Greg Schiano hasn’t been a book of knowledge on the subject either.

“I really can’t discuss it and neither can Eric,” Schiano said at the start of his news conference Monday. “I’m not trying to be evasive at all, but that’s what comes down from the league and that’s where I’m going to be.

“You saw he was on the bike. He has an Achilles (injury) coming out of the game that is a little bit of a concern. Didn’t know about it after the game, really didn’t know about it until recently. But I think the injury, he’ll be okay, but I can’t predict.”

Presumably Wright would be allowed to practice if he was healthy even with the suspension looming. Schiano has already said he would welcome back Aqib Talib after his Adderall suspension and that guy’s a mess. Wright, by comparison, doesn’t get all punchy when you do things like look at him funny or drive him places. So it looks like Wright will likely be out on Sunday for one reason or another. And that leaves the starting cornerbacks as E.J. Biggers and Myron Lewis with Leonard Johnson in nickel. Individually, I don’t mind having any of them on the field. But together with no superiorly talented player to lean on, it’s a little spooky. Biggers has flashed hot and cold, most recently cold. Johnson had a nice game last week but is woefully inexperienced. And Lewis has never proven he can be a consistent player. And I was concerned about the secondary before this.

What the fuck is up with Adderall anyway? I understand it’s supposed to allow you to maintain focus and also has some physical benefits, but so do a lot of other drugs on the banned substance list and everyone seems to be staying away from most of those. Its name is written very clearly on page 18, and not in some weird foreign language. But for some reason, guys seem to think they can get away with this particular banned drug. I know for a fact that One Buc has a coffee machine. Use it. Get more sleep at night, wake up earlier and do your cardio before team meetings, whatever. This just seems like the dumbest thing to get in trouble for.

Bucs Hand Vikings Their Collective Asses

October 29, 2012 at 12:41pm by Scott   •  16 Comments »

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If you were looking for some sign that the Bucs had taken a step forward in the Greg Schiano regime, Thursday night should have given you the encouragement you needed to stay with the team for at least a couple more weeks and not jump on the Falcon bandwagon just yet. The game was a complete victory — no one unit needed to be called on to save the day.

Of course, the first thing everyone is going to talk about is the Doug Martin and his 214 yard, two-touchdown night running and catching. And with good reason since he was the star of the night. Martin had 135 yards rushing on 29 attempts for a nice solid 4.7 YPC. He finally broke some of those runs that he couldn’t seem to break earlier this season. He showed more speed than he has before along with the same shiftiness and balance we’ve come to expect. And one thing he did that LeGarrette Blount hasn’t been able to do is punch the ball into the endzone on a short yardage run. I hadn’t realized it, but there was already talk going on that Martin was a disappointment as a first-round pick. These were obviously people who care more about fantasy points than their own team doing well, and hopefully Thursday night shut them up for a while. And if not, they deserve a Doug Martin stiffarm right in the windpipe.

But Martin couldn’t have done it without a great performance from the offensive line. Run blocking was incredible on Thursday, especially on the left side. Martin ran most of the time to the left and there were holes in the defense than hadn’t been there all season. Offensive linemen were even blocking 20 yards downfield sometimes, springing Martin for some incredible runs. Pass blocking started off a little shaky, but firmed up as the night went on. Josh Freeman was only sacked once and hit three times, nothing major. Donald Penn held Jared Allen in check most of the night except for that fight they got into and then Penn had to deal with a pissed off Allen, and no one wants that. Hell, there weren’t even any false starts or holding penalties on the line. If they can play like that every week, this offense will be hard to beat.

The best thing I saw in Thursday’s game about Freeman was his decision making. The Vikings had obviously chosen to take away Freeman’s deep throws, so he said fine and just took what was available. After a shaky first quarter, he was accurate and careful and just continued to chip away at the defense in some long, sustained drives. Freeman threw the ball up 36 times and had no picks. But most of all, he was clutch. When the team needed to convert a third and long, he found the right guy and made a good throw. His receivers bailed him out of a couple high or possibly inaccurate throws, but part of what receivers do is go get the ball when it’s anywhere around them. It was Freeman’s best game of the season.

Speaking of his receivers, Mike Williams is looking like a Lynn Swann clone, and I don’t mean that he’s turning into a huge douche like Swann. But his concentration and foot awareness and hands are in that category. Williams has no problem laying out and sacrificing his body for the ball and just about every week there’s a highlight reel catch by him for a big play. Vincent Jackson was relatively quiet on Thursday, but the two balls he did grab were important (not a euphemism). And as the weeks go on, Dallas Clark is looking more like the player we remember from the Colts.

The defensive line came alive on Thursday, especially the defensive ends. Daniel Te’o-Nesheim and Michael Bennett both had sacks on Christian Ponder, with Bennett picking up 2 tackles for loss and a forced fumble on top of it. Da’Quan Bowers made it off the PUP list and onto the field, and even though he didn’t make it on the stat sheet, he showed that he is ready for some game action and provide some much needed depth. Besides one breakaway run by Adrian Peterson, the line held the running game in check too. It was a complete turnaround from last week.

Maybe it was the line’s performance that made the secondary look a little rough by comparison. Besides Ronde Barber, who had an excellent game with 9 tackles (1 for loss) and a forced fumble, who really stood out in the secondary? Eric Wright tried to arm tackle Peterson and got embarrassed and let Percy Harvin get by him for a touchdown. E.J. Biggers had a few tackles but didn’t do anything spectacular (although I won’t hold Bigger’s responsible for Jerome Simpson‘s catch even though it was Biggers’s responsibility. They kept forcing the ball to Simpson and eventually one of those is going to hit.) The brightest spot I saw was Leonard Johnson getting in some real playing time and making the most of it with 3 passes defensed and an interception, the only one of the night. I’m not going to get too down on it because it was still a win and they didn’t look terrible, but it just seemed ordinary compared to everyone else.

You can tell this was a solid win by the comments by the Vikings afterwards. They said they got their butts kicked and the Bucs beat their brains in. It was a demoralizing loss for the Vikings and that’s the best kind of loss to pin on an opponent. Schiano is big on preaching the virtues of “Buc ball”. If this is what he means, I’m 100% on board with him.

REAR ENTIRES: Making Epidemics

October 25, 2012 at 12:17pm by Scott   •  15 Comments »

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SECONDARY TROUBLES: When I blamed the defensive line for the problems against the Saints last week, some people chimed in and said they thought the secondary was the bigger issue. So congratulations, Rick Stroud agrees with you.

The Bucs have given up seven pass plays of 40 or more yards (tied for most in the league) and 28 of 20 yards or more (tied for fourth most).

And Greg Schiano also recognizes that the Bucs are giving up too much in the air, although he had to think about it for a minute.

“I don’t want to make an epidemic here, and it hasn’t been a problem,” he said. “I shouldn’t say that. There have been spurts where it has been a problem, but it is not like that’s our main issue.”

“I don’t want to make an epidemic here” is makes it sound like he’s holding a vial of monkey virus threateningly over the reporters’ heads. Also, how long can it possibly be before we see a Jim Mora/Dennis Green runaway from Schiano? You know the guy is pretty tightly packed. The right reporter at just the right time is going to make Schiano come unglued. You wait.

Anyway, the longer the quarterback has to hold onto the ball, the more chance there is that the receiver will get open. You just can’t cover a guy for five or six seconds consistently. I still say pressure is the more critical problem.

PONDER CALLING OUT SAID SECONDARY: Well, not really calling them out. That makes it sound like Christian Ponder was being a dick, which he really wasn’t. But he does think the Bucs leave themselves open to big plays.

“They’re very aggressive, so with double-moves and stuff they try to bite on stuff and try to guess,” said Ponder of the Bucs’ 2012 defense. “But they can also make plays that way. They’re a very good defense. I think it’s going to be one of the better defenses we face, especially with how aggressive they play. If you’re going to take chances trying to undercut a route, you’re also going to take chances of giving up a big play.”

As illustrated a minute ago, the Bucs do give up their share of big plays, so he has a point. But still… fuck that guy.

TWITTER TONIGHT: I’ll be on Twitter @bucstats during tonight’s game, so if you want to hang out, we can all armchair quarterback together and then depending on the outcome, take bets on whether tonight is the night Schiano loses his mind.

Did You Know Tiquan Underwood Has Unusual Hair?

October 24, 2012 at 07:38pm by Scott   •  No Comments »

Why, no, I've never heard that House Party joke.
The good news about having a Thursday night game is that there’s not a lot of time between Sunday and Thursday. The bad news is that nothing happens in the days leading up to it that’s worth writing about. I mean, this pop piece about Tiquan Underwood is the only thing that’s even the least bit interesting. Go ahead and guess if they ask him about his hair.

Let’s get this out of the way. You know I have to ask about the hair. How long have you been growing the high-top?

If I were Tiquan, I’d answer every question about my hair with “your mother”. Especially yes or no questions.

I wouldn’t say there’s been one that was really out there, but there is one (comment) that is the most common: How do I get my helmet on? People always ask me that.

Because people, for the most part, are dumb as shit.

Oh, and the iPod question always comes up.

I have this old school playlist on my iPod. And I listen to a lot of artists who were big when I was growing up: 2Pac, (Notorious B.I.G.), Jay-Z, who actually is still doing it. I just like that ’90s era of music. Things were good then. They were speaking about real life and real things.

So this is what it has come to? Jay-Z is old school. Gotcha. I’ll just take my King of Rock cassette and be on my way.

But Tiquan sounds like a genuinely nice guy. He’s got a good attitude about his role on the team, his unfortunate dismissal by New England the day before the Super Bowl, and his aspirations. And to be honest, I think he’s got a higher ceiling than Preston Parker and was the smart choice if the Bucs could only keep one.

Properly Assigning My Rage

October 23, 2012 at 10:22am by Scott   •  12 Comments »

saints20121

Okay, now that I’ve had a day to think about it, I know who I’m the maddest at. At first I thought I was mad at the officials for denying Mike Williams the game-tying touchdown on such a stupid rule. But the rule is the rule and they have to enforce them. And then I thought I was mad at Vincent Jackson for somehow making a 95-yard catch-and-run but somehow not getting in the endzone. He honestly looked like he was jogging for part of that run and Malcolm Jenkins isn’t extraordinarily fast. But I forgot Jackson has been nursing a calf injury for a while now, so that may have played a part in it. Then I was mad at LeGarrette Blount for not being able to pound the ball into the endzone after several attempts. And I’m still a little mad about that, but the offensive line messed up on their end, too. New Orleans has one of the worst run defenses in the league and somehow they stonewalled the Bucs on the doorstep of the goal line. And then I got mad at Mike Sullivan for calling all those goal line runs in a row when it was obvious that they weren’t working. But there’s a good chance I would have done the same thing. I’m always saying stupid shit like, “If you can’t gain one yard when you need it, you don’t need to be playing” and I very likely would have continued to feed the ball to Blount behind that line since they have Carl Nicks and Donald Penn and Blount is big and powerful. So I was mad at myself, too.

Then it hit me. All those guys are offensive players. But the offense wasn’t necessarily the problem. It was the defense that allowed Drew Brees to come back after being 14 points down twice. Specifically, it was the defensive line that got NO pressure on Brees. And that’s not some subjective indictment I’m putting on the line. That’s statistical fact. There were no sacks and no quarterback pressures recorded for the game. Do you know how hard that is to do? The closest they came was the batted ball early in the game that Ronde Barber returned to the 13. After that the Bucs stayed away from him like Tennessee stays away from SEC victories (or the Crimson Tide stays away from showers). Any quarterback worth a shit will make a completion if you give him a clear look at his receivers. But Brees being Brees will absolutely eat you alive if you give him that kind of time. He’s too accurate and he knows his receivers too well. And sometimes just to make their point that they didn’t want to disturb Brees’s concentration, the Bucs rushed three. Really. No one was going to get there — their offensive line gets paid, too, you know. If that was an effective strategy, someone would have invented Cover 11 by now where there is absolutely no rush. No one does that. You know why? Because rushing the quarterback makes a difference.

So, yes, I blame the defensive line and whoever is in charge of telling them what to do. The 28 points the Bucs scored should have been enough.

The secondary was pretty much shit, too, except for Ronde’s heads up play. Brandon McDonald and Eric Wright both got burned for big gains or touchdowns. Even Mark Barron wasn’t really sharp, which is a big surprise. I honestly don’t have a single note about the linebackers, which means they didn’t play great but did enough to not get noticed. But it all starts at the line. If Brees has to hurry his throws and can’t get set, the rest of the defense looks a lot better.

The offense looked actually pretty good. Josh Freeman was sharp for most of the game and didn’t throw a pick while racking up a career high in passing yards. Doug Martin had the best game of his short career and is finally starting to break away on some of these runs. The receivers played a great game and the tight ends showed up, with Dallas Clark scoring a touchdown and Luke Stocker making a nice catch. I’ll also mention the tight ends blocking here because Clark doesn’t get enough credit for it. He had a nice block on Martin’s TD run. The offensive line had a nice game pass-blocking but their run-blocking obviously needs something since they couldn’t help Blount score from the 3-yard line on three tries. And Jeremy Zuttah‘s rolling snap came at the worst possible time.

The Bucs’ kick return game looked like hell again and Connor Barth missed another field goal, but Michael Koenen continues to impress with his punts and kickoffs. Maybe it’s time to activate Michael Smith and see what he can do to get the Bucs better starting field position. He didn’t look that hot in preseason, but can he be any worse than what they’re getting now?

It was a heartbreaking loss and it shouldn’t have been that way, but the defensive line has looked really good in other games and I’m willing to chalk this one up to… I dunno, mild food poisoning or something. We knew we’d be having conversations like this this season, so let’s not get all indignant now that it’s actually happening. It’s too early to start calling the season a washout. I think six wins is what I’m expecting. Eight wins and it’s a great season. Let’s continue to be realistic here.

Open Thread For Bitching

October 21, 2012 at 04:30pm by Scott   •  14 Comments »

Fuck you.

Go ahead. Let it all out.

REAR ENTRIES: Secrets And Lies

October 19, 2012 at 11:27am by Scott   •  4 Comments »

rearentry150

HI MOM!: Mike Williams talks about how his mother helped teach him how to go up and grab balls that seemed too high to catch.

Mary Rosenthal had the best of intentions, but throwing a football with accuracy just wasn’t among her strengths.

So years ago, when she insisted on playing catch with her young son, current Bucs receiver Mike Williams, she routinely overthrew him. It forced Williams to reach for the sky to come down with the wayward passes.

“Before I even knew how to run a route, I knew how to go up and get the ball,” Williams said.

An article about moms and grabbing balls? It’s days like this I really miss Joe. And his mom.

SPILL IT, NICKS: Carl Nicks, who came from the Saints this offseason, has decided not to share any of his former team’s secrets or weaknesses the week before his current team plays them.

“I’m a firm believer in playing fair and being honest and the code,” Nicks said Wednesday.

“It’s cheating, and I’m not about that. I know they’re not about that. I want to be able to sit there and say, ‘We beat you guys fair and square.’ “

I’m a firm believer in playing fair, too, but is that really cheating? I kind of assumed that when a player plays his former team, he gives his current team any information they want. You think Elbert Mack is keeping his mouth shut now that he’s in New Orleans? Granted, the Bucs have all new schemes now and Mack wouldn’t be able to help much, but he knows a lot of the players and what they’re good at and can probably tell them something. With free agency, someone is always playing their former team. It’s up to coaches to protect themselves against being too predictable and using the same old terminology and signals. Sorry, Carl, you need to give up the secrets. March right into Greg Schiano‘s office and tell him Drew Brees‘s real name so the Bucs can say it during the game and make him go away.

CHARGES AGAINST STEVENS DROPPED: Have you thought about Jerramy Stevens even once since he was cut? Me neither, but he still lives in Tampa and is still having fun with the law. This time, though, charges were dropped against him for an alleged 2011 face-punching. You know your life hasn’t gone as planned when the “Legal Troubles” section of your Wiki page is longer than the “Professional Career” section.

Finally Something Worthwhile To Watch On TV

October 18, 2012 at 11:20pm by Scott   •  3 Comments »

Orange is the greatest football color ever. There is no discussion.
Just like the moon landing or the announcement that cheese now came in a spray can, residents of Tampa will remember where they were when the Buccaneers announced that they would be able to see their local football program on their home moving picture boxes.

“We’re pleased to have reached the 85 percent of general admission seats needed for local broadcast of this Sunday’s game versus the New Orleans Saints, which leaves us with the remaining 15 percent of tickets — starting at $30 — available for this exciting divisional showdown,” said Bucs Vice President of Business Administration Brian Ford.

It’s good news for the Bucs fans in Tampa who forgot they had a team. I was skeptical it would happen at all this year. Last week’s game was ridiculously underattended. The crowd looked about the same as your typical Foreigner concert — in 2012 — and the Saints aren’t exactly a draw this season. But the allure of the orange is strong. The Bucs do it up right with the stands and the cheerleaders and the field and the uniforms all decked out in glorious creamsicle. They give out free shit and make it a 70s party atmosphere and people know that now, so they’re coming to the game even though the team isn’t exactly firing o all cylinders just yet. Seriously, embracing the throwbacks is one of the better decisions the Bucs have made in quite a while.

Bowers Back To Practice

October 17, 2012 at 03:46pm by Scott   •  2 Comments »

Just like the original players to wear those uniforms, Bowers will not be performing this week.
Da’Quan Bowers started practicing again today and the Bucs have three weeks to evaluate him before deciding to put him on the active roster or put him up for adoption. Or whatever the other option is.

As to what ultimately will determine whether Bowers is ready for game action, the Bucs’ 2011 second-round pick said he’s first looking for “consistency. I just want to be consistent with everything. The playbook, the plays, taking coaching, conditioning and most of all, my Achilles. It’s just all about how that thing feels.”

So what if it feels great and Bowers is ready to return? The surprising rise of Daniel Te’o-Nesheim and the not surprising standout play of Michael Bennett this season gives the Bucs the flexibility not to rush Bowers back on the field or use him sparingly. I don’t remember Bowers playing much at right end, so Bennett would probably have to come off the field (or kick inside to DT which I hate) in order for Bowers to get some playing time. And we want Bennett on the field all the time right now. I’d take all three weeks and then activate him and cut a linebacker since they’ve got eight of them. Like Markus White, for example. I should probably pay closer attention because I’ve never heard of him and he’s on the active roster. So yeah, cut him.