TAMPA — Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman took quite a beating this preseason. He was sacked nine times by opposing pass rushers and knocked around by critics such as Hall of Fame QB Fran Tarkenton.
But at least one former Bucs quarterback thinks Tampa Bay has a special talent in Freeman, and that Bucs fans should rally around him.
“I think everyone should be jumping onboard Josh’s bandwagon and should start enjoying all the things he can do,’’ said Brad Johnson, the quarterback of the Bucs’ Super Bowl XXXVII championship team. “I think Josh has done a great job.”
Johnson pointed to 2010, when Freeman threw 25 touchdowns and six interceptions, as well as 2012, when Freeman set single-season franchise marks with 4,065 passing yards and 27 touchdown passes. Freeman finished the season, however, with a pair of games in which he threw four interceptions each.
“But for the most part,” Johnson said, “I thought he played really well.’’
Freeman has been described as inconsistent, and his career 79.8 passer rating and 78-63 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions supports that. But Johnson doesn’t believe those stats are all Freeman’s fault.
“It seems to me like they’re always playing from behind a lot,’’ said Johnson, who watches the Bucs regularly in retirement. “As a quarterback, that can be tough, because no matter who you are, you need help. You need your defense to get you turnovers and you need your kick and punt returners to get you a short field now. And then and it really helps if you can just be able to play with a lead.
“After a while, if you’re playing even or from behind, the game will catch up to you. And if you’re not surrounded by a great team, you’re just not going to win that much. But I think Josh is a tremendous quarterback.’’
Winning them over
The decision to start Daniel Te’o-Nesheim ahead of Da’Quan Bowers at defensive end opposite Adrian Clayborn has as much to with Te’o-Nesheim’s play during the preseason as Bowers’ performance. While Bowers proved to be out of shape and a disappointment to Bucs coaches, Te’o-Nesheim affirmed he is one of the team’s most underrated players.
“Daniel is as steady as she blows,’’ head coach Greg Schiano said. “He goes in and does his job and plays really well against the run. The thing that people tend to miss on is that he had (four) sacks last year.’’
Te’o-Nesheim ranked third on the team last year behind Michael Bennett (9) and Gerald McCoy (5).
“Technically, he’s very sound,’’ Schiano said of Te’o-Nesheim, who overcomes a lack of speed most elite pass rushers possess. “He’s also very strong and has a low center of gravity, but his best trait is he’s relentless.’’
Center of attention
Former Outland Trophy winner Gabe Carimi continues to work with the first team at left guard as a possible replacement for Carl Nicks (toe, staph infection.). Moving Jeremy Zuttah from center to guard, as the Bucs did for nine games last season when Nicks was injured, is looking like less of an option.
“We have Carimi, Ted (Larsen) and Jamon (Meredith),’’ Schiano said. “All three of them are options for us at the guard spot, and I’m comfortable with all three. I’m confident all three can get in there and play well.’’
Put me in, Coach
The competitor in WR Mike Williams wanted more playing time in the preseason, but he completely understood the Bucs’ decision to mostly rest their starters.
“That’s what you need to do, save people for the regular season, because it would be bad if you get hurt in the preseason and then you can’t play when it counts,’’ Williams said. “(Playing a lot) is really not what the preseason is for.”