TAMPA — Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman has been his own worst enemy at times, flashing a tendency to squeeze throws into tight windows that too often result in takeaways for the other team.
The Bucs made it a point this preseason to rid Freeman of that tendency and improve his decision-making. With the regular-season opener against the Jets on Sunday, they are confident they achieved their objective.
“Now, I always preface that by saying you have to go out and do it,” coach Greg Schiano said, “but I am confident Josh is going to (eliminate those mistakes).
“He has a better understanding of what we're doing. He's more comfortable in the offense. And now that these guys have played together, it's not just a matter of everyone knowing the offense better, but there's a better familiarity with each other, too.''
Schiano isn't the only person at One Buc Place who believes a greater familiarity with coordinator Mike Sullivan's offense and the Bucs' personnel will result in fewer Freeman mistakes. Freeman believes it, too.
“When you know yourself and your offense and your guys, and understand the defenses you're playing better, things in the pocket just slow down that much more for you,'' Freeman said. “You understand you have an outlet you can kick the ball out to, or if there really isn't a great outlet there because the back is eating up protection or something and you just have to throw the ball away.
“Things like that have always registered, but not always in a boom-boom-boom sort of manner. But I feel like the work we put in this offseason and the training camp we've had have really helped to prepare me moving into the season.”
Captain, oh, captain
Bucs players voted for captains this week, selecting G Davin Joseph, WR Vincent Jackson, S Dashon Goldson, DT Gerald McCoy and LB Adam Hayward (special teams) to stand at midfield for the pre-game coin toss before each game. After serving as a captain the previous two years, Freeman will not have a “C” on his uniform this year.
That is in no way a reflection of Freeman's leadership ability or the way teammates perceive him, Schiano said.
“Josh is going to lead, so I'm not concerned about that,'' Schiano said. “And I can tell you that, to a man, every offensive player on this team will tell you, 'We follow No. 5.' So, I think it's a good thing. I guess it all depends on how you look at it, but I'm fine with it.''
The Bucs are “leaning'' towards starting Gabe Carimi at left guard in place of Carl Nicks, who will miss the season opener with a staph infection. But it might be game time before Schiano makes an official decision.
“He's got the most reps there (in practice this week),'' Schiano said of Carimi. “But other guys could (play). So, we'll kind of play that one by ear. Plenty of guys got reps at that spot, but (Carimi) got the most. We just have to make sure.''
Settle down, now
Opening day is an exciting time for everyone, especially a two-time Pro Bowler such as Goldson, who is eager to extend his two-year streak of Pro Bowl and postseason appearances.
“Yeah, I've got to keep that chained, though,'' Goldson said. “I can get a little overwhelmed sometimes and try to do too much. I've got to make sure I play sound defense and just make my plays when they come.''