We're starting to gear up for the Kansas City Chiefs next preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We've looked at a few similarities between the two teams and it appears the starters will see plenty of time.
Now it's time to talk to the enemy. I talked with Craig over at Bucs Nation and got a few Bucs-related questions out of him.
I asked questions on Josh Freeman, the big defensive tackles and what changes were made from '09 to '10 that will help the Bucs win. I think we can relate to all of those questions since there are similar questions and issues on the Chiefs.
What kind of progression have you seen from Josh Freeman from the day he arrived in Tampa until now?
Freeman's time at the helm of the Buccaneer offense is pretty tough to accurately gauge so far. His first action was on foreign soil against the New England Patriots for a Buccaneer team that was winless at the time and would wind up with only 3 wins on the year. His number one receiver, Antonio Bryant, was MIA with a knee injury for much of the year. His #2 option was a TE. His #3 option was a 5'10", 7th round rookie WR. His offensive line failed to get a consistant push in the running game to take some pressure off him. His first offensive coordinator was fired in the 2009 preseason and his offense basically lacked a true identity at the start of the season.
That's being between a rock and a hard place.
Freeman looked very much the part of a rookie NFL QB last season, throwing 10 TD to 18 INTs. He made some head-scratching throws, including 5 INTs in a tough 16-6 loss at Carolina. However, he had his moments as well. In his first career start, he threw for 3 TD against the Packers. He went 20-29 for 250 and 2 scores against a game Falcon squad on the road. He helped lead the offense to back-to-back road wins over Seattle and New Orleans.
He was lauded for the time he put in the film room this offseason and the dedication he's showed to try to improve. He looked poised and composed last weekend in Miami, recognizing one-on-one coverage and hitting his new toy Mike Williams for a 30-yard gain, before going through his progressions and finding up-and-coming Sammie Stroughter for a TD.
Bottom line is that we still don't know what we have in Freeman, but with the better part of a season and a full offseason under his belt, not to mention a new group of wide receivers to throw to, I predict significant improvement for him this year.
What are the Bucs plans with the two big DTs and how are they going to use them in 2010?
Gerald McCoy is penciled in as the starting undertackle and Brian Price is battling Roy Miller for the starting spot at nose. The Bucs will rely upon McCoy, Price, and Miller to do what the great Buccaneer defensive lines did before.....collapse the pocket like a vice on opposing quarterbacks.
Price is reportedly having a terrific camp and McCoy's explosive abilities are well known. If the tackles can get a push up the field, it should make ends Stylez G. White, Michael Bennett, Kyle Moore, and Tim Crowder beneficiaries of a sitting duck QB with nowhere to go.
What's the biggest change from 2009 to 2010 with the Bucs and why will that help them win in 2010?
Biggest change? Youth, talent, and a return to fundamental football.
This past offseason saw the addition of a seeming wealth of young talent, several of whom are pegged to start or figure into the rotation at their respective positions. As for the bulk of the incumbents, the change from Jim Bates' two-gap system back to a form of the Tampa 2 saw substantial improvement....and the offseason has allowed some of the players, like DT Miller and DE Moore, to lose weight and regain some speed and quickness to fit the system even better.
The Bucs hope to duplicate their late-season success running the football to take the pressure off of Freeman and an alarmingly-young receiving corps. The entire offensive line, considered to be a strength of the Buccaneers going into 2009, returns, anchored by the newly-re-signed Donald Penn, Jeff Faine, and Davin Joseph. With Derrick Ward struggling, it could be a solid season for Cadillac Williams on the ground.