Sun Tzu said: "Know thy enemy and know thyself, and thou shall find victory in every battle."
That's what we're going to do today. Today I will introduce you to Josh Freeman, and by the end of this article I will have you brought up to date on everything you need to know about him. By the time this article is done, you will know Josh Freeman and you will know what to expect from him. Whether the Panthers know this or not is up to them and the film room. But you my friends, will know.
You WILL know.
Josh Freeman was born in the largest city in Missouri, Kansas City in 1988. His father Ron Freeman was a linebacker in the United States Football League for two years, a league that lasted for 4 years before the rich men behind it ran out of money trying to compete with the NFL. He spent his high school playing football at Grandview High School, passing for over 7,000 yards and earning a 4 star rating by Rivals.com among other websites. He set several records during his stay, including career passing yards, touchdowns, attempts, completions, yards passing in a game, and touchdowns in a game. By the time he was a senior, he was rated the top college prospect to come out of Missouri.
His original commitment was given to the University of Nebraska to play for the former Oakland Raiders head coach Bill Callahan. However, he broke his commitment later in favor of Kansas State and Ron Prince.
As a true Freshman in 2006, Josh Freeman played for most of the season and started the final 8 games. His first start and victory came against Oklahoma State, where Josh Freeman helped his team come back in the 4th quarter. With 3 minutes left to go and the score 27-17, the Kansas State defense managed a brilliant interception returned for a touchdown, and after the defense stepped up big to prevent a clock-killing 1st down on the ensuing possession, Josh Freeman led his team to the game winning score, and scored himself on a run right up the middle. His first defeat came against the team he spurned, Nebraska. Nebraska pulled a whole lot of shenanigans during that game, including a faked field goal pass for a TD by a backup kicker that happened to be a QB in High School. Josh threw two interceptions against an inspired defense during that game. The Wildcats finished 7-6, and they lost in the Texas Bowl against the Rudgers 10-37.
As a Sophomore in 2007, Josh Freeman and his Wildcats managed a 5-7 record. A notable win came against #7 Texas, where the Wildcats could do no wrong. Two kick returns for a touchdown, an interception turned into a touchdown, and Josh Freeman threw for one himself. Kansas State won the game 41-21, and Colt McCoy was shamed. As a Quarterback, he published his first positive touchdown to interception ratio, and his national recognition began to show itself. He threw for over 3,300 yards and 18 touchdowns, but his defense and special teams were spotty at best. Sometimes they would show up to play, and sometimes they wouldn't. It would prove to be a trend that would haunt the Wildcats during Josh's entire term with his team.
As a Junior in 2008, Josh Freeman took the next step in his college career. While he did not match his Sophomore yards in the passing game, he threw for 20 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions. In addition, he also became a duel threat in the endzone, putting up an additional 400+ rushing yards and 14 more touchdowns. However, in Ron Prince's last year as the Wildcats Coach, his defense let Josh Freeman down. He suffered through 9 games where the Wildcat's opponents put up 30 points or more, possibly a large part of the reason he decided to declare for the NFL Draft a year early.
Josh Freeman was selected with the 17th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, our opponents for next week. It's interesting to hear the argument going back and forth between members of our community about the benefits of starting a QB in his rookie year or holding him out for a few years. You have arguments on both sides, and Josh Freeman is the compromise between both of those sides. After missing the first 7 games, Josh Freeman started his first game midway through his rookie year against the Green Bay Packers. In spite of completing barely 45% of his passes, he still managed to connect on a few long balls to get 3 touchdowns as opposed to only 1 interception, leading his team in a comeback win against Green Bay, 38-28. A late-game interception return for a TD by the defense, much as was the case when he was in college, sealed the win for Josh and his squad. However, Josh Freeman fell into a funk after the game, culminating in 5 interceptions against our very own Carolina Panthers in Week 13. He managed 2 more wins against the Seahawks and New Orleans, but the Bucs fell short of the playoffs by a large margin, 3 wins and 13 losses.
And then, we have 2010. Current day.
Josh Freeman had a fair game against the Browns. He was blessed with some good fortune as well, the Browns dropped a couple of balls from him that could have changed the game. As a matter of fact, one of his touchdowns in the endzone was a direct result of a tipped pass by a Browns defender. It literally deflected right off his hands into the air, he fell on the ground like he was run over by a bull, and Mike Williams just happened to be hanging around to grab the TD.
What do I see when I look at Josh Freeman? I see a semi-duel threat QB that struggles in the short to intermediate passing game when under pressure, but excels in the deep ball. The Bucs will try to get the ball deep to Mike Williams throughout the early parts of the game and put the Panthers depleted secondary to the test. However, they are tested for wide receivers as well. Other than Kellen Winslow, they have no receivers that have proven themselves to be capable NFL every-down threats. Josh Freeman will suffer greatly if he is put under pressure, and he will throw multiple interceptions if he feels the footsteps coming.
The key to defeating Josh Freeman is for our defensive ends to put pressure on him. We must also make sure our safeties do not screw up when they try their deep routes down the field. If we can at least limit Josh Freeman to the short to intermediate passing game, he will make mistakes. And those mistakes will translate to Panthers interceptions.