Behind Enemy Lines: Bucs-Packers I

In this edition of Behind Enemy Lines, Bucsblitz.com contributor Matthew Postins answers five important questions from Packerreport.com's Bill Huber, including the future of Bucs head coach Raheem Morris, the Bucs' inept offense and whether starting rookie QB Josh Freeman is a good idea. Get expert analysis you can't get anywhere else right here.

Bill Huber, Packerreport.com: During the conference call with new coach Raheem Morris on Wednesday, it was pretty clear that he is one intense, passionate guy. But in your seven-game peek, does he have what it takes to get the franchise back to a contending level?

Matthew Postins, Bucsblitz.com contributor: At the moment the jury is very much out on Morris' capability of turning this team around. I think everyone expected the Bucs to be under .500 this season. I don't think many expected them to be this bad. Even I thought they would be 5-11. Right now, it appears they may start 0-11. Morris was given this job because the Glazer family was afraid to lose him to another team. Morris had one year as a coordinator under his belt before being elevated to head coach, and has changed both the offensive and defensive philosophy of this football team rather dramatically. I've made the case that the Bucs could consider a coaching change after this season, since there are several veteran coaches on the market that have experience with taking young teams and molding them into successful teams (Mike Holmgren, Mike Shanahan and Brian Billick among them). Ultimately, I think they'll give Morris until at least then 2010 season to show that he can make progress. But several of his top players are free agents in the spring, and the relative lack of talent on this team may prompt players like Barrett Ruud and Carnell Williams to jump ship. I haven't given up on Morris yet, but the deck is stacked against him and I'm not sure he's up to this enormous challenge. You have to understand. This is the worst the Bucs have been since Tony Dungy took over the team more than a decade ago.

Bill Huber, Packerreport.com: What on earth is wrong on offense? On paper, the Bucs have Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward at halfback, Antonio Bryant and Mark Clayton at receiver, and Kellen Winslow at tight end. That's a lot of talent, but there hasn't been much production.

Matthew Postins, Bucsblitz.com contributor: The problem is at quarterback. When rookie Josh Freeman starts on Sunday, he'll be the third new quarterback this season. Because the quarterback is not a threat to opposing defenses, they can focus on the strength of these Bucs, which is their offensive line and running game. There's no consistent passing game to force teams to play more nickel and dime packages. Therefore, some of the players you mentioned – like Bryant and Clayton – don't get many chances to make an impact. Winslow, oddly enough, is the top receiver on the team this season, and that's likely because as a tight end he's a great check-down option once the QB sees that his other receivers are covered. It all trickles down from the relative inexperience and lack of efficiency under center.

Bill Huber, Packerreport.com: What did you see out of Josh Freeman in the preseason, and is there any chance that he's ready for this?

Matthew Postins, Bucsblitz.com contributor: I saw a green rookie quarterback who showed flashes of talent and athletic ability, but was nowhere near ready to be considered a starting quarterback. So no, he's not ready for this. But at 0-7, the Bucs don't really have that much to lose as a team by starting Freeman. However, Freeman has much to lose. This is exactly the type of situation that can damage a young quarterback's psyche, especially if the fan base is expecting Freeman to be their savior (and, frankly, given that he was their first-round pick, they do see him at the very least as the quarterback of the future). I've said all season that the Bucs should not rush Freeman onto the field. I'd like to see them continue to start Josh Johnson and use Freeman as a change-of-pace QB and let him run every third or fourth possession. His mobility and big arm can be used in unique packages like the Wildcat or an option spread. But the Bucs have never been that creative offensively. I really believe this is the wrong move for the Bucs and could have unintended consequences on Freeman's long-term career.

Bill Huber, Packerreport.com: Just how big of a step back was the shakeup at offensive coordinator during training camp? It can't be good to be switching gears on offense just a couple weeks before the season begins.

Matthew Postins, Bucsblitz.com contributor: In the days after Jeff Jagodzinski's firing, we learned why he was let go. Raheem Morris felt the playbook lacked creativity, especially in getting the ball downfield. By moving quarterbacks coach Greg Olsen to offensive coordinator, he got a play-caller who was willing to throw the ball downfield occasionally. So this offense is less of a West Coast offense now, though Olsen did keep some of the principles. Most of the players don't talk about the consequences of such a move, but it's clear that Jags and Olsen have different rhythms in terms of play-calling. I think the step back can be reflected in the three teams that made moves at offensive coordinator just before the season started – Tampa Bay, Buffalo and Kansas City. All three of these teams will be drafting in the Top 10 next year. Making that dramatic a change before a season starts is never a good thing.

Bill Huber, Packerreport.com: The Packers' pass-protection problems have been beaten to death up here. How good (or bad) has the Bucs' pass rush been and who should the Packers worry about?

Matthew Postins, Bucsblitz.com contributor: You obviously haven't looked at a stat sheet. The Bucs rank 29th in the NFL in quarterback sacks with 11. The trade of Gaines Adams to Chicago put Jimmy Wilkerson and Stylez G. White in the starting lineup, with Denver castoff Tim Crowder getting serious rotation time. The Bucs aren't getting much pressure on the quarterback at all because of their lack of talent up front. Defensive coordinator Jim Bates is doing the best he can with the talent and his play-calling, but because he has to bring extra linebackers and defensive backs to put heat on the quarterback, the Bucs are prone to give up big plays downfield in the passing game. If there's one player to watch, it's White, who has enough size and speed to be a viable threat. But the fact is this could be QB Aaron Rodgers' easiest week in the pocket to date. If the Bucs get a sack, they'll be lucky.


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