In Week 9, Freeman made his first NFL start against Green Bay. He helped the Buccaneers get their first win of the season by completing 14 of 31 passes for 205 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, and he had four carries for 20 yards.
Stroughter is looking forward to seeing what Freeman can do next.
"I call him the quiet assassin," Stroughter said. "He's one of those guys – when he's in there he wants to take care of business."
Freeman's work has just started, but he has a long way to go to be a standout quarterback, especially in the eyes of Fantasy owners. But now every prominent rookie passer has started at least one game this season as Freeman joins Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez.
|Josh Freeman could emerge as the best quarterback from this year's class. (US Presswire)|
Freeman, who was the No. 17 overall pick from Kansas State, waited as the Bucs started the season with Byron Leftwich and then went to Josh Johnson before giving him a chance after their bye in Week 8. He doesn't plan on giving up the job any time soon.
Learning the playbook was his biggest challenge because the Bucs are on their second offensive coordinator since the summer when Jeff Jagodzinski was replaced by Greg Olson. Freeman said he had to learn new protection schemes and route combinations, which took time. Still, Freeman felt he could have played from the beginning, much like Stafford and Sanchez.
"I'm definitely in my element on the football field," he said. "It's really just a matter of getting comfortable and maintaining that comfort level throughout the game and not feeling like the game is too big or that you have the game wrapped up. It's just finding that balance between being comfortable but still being on point and alert."
It also helps to have a big arm and an ability to make plays. Just ask Stroughter.
The two spent plenty of time working together from the rookie minicamps until now, and Stroughter said Freeman is the type of quarterback who can make a positive play when nothing is there. Against the Packers, Stroughter had three catches for 19 yards and a touchdown.
"Josh has a live arm, and there is no ball he can't throw," Stroughter said. "You could be last on the progression but you are live. He has that capability of making that throw."
Freeman doesn't have the best receiving corps, especially with Antonio Bryant (knee) at less than 100 percent. He has a solid tight end in Kellen Winslow, but his other receivers are either inexperienced like Stroughter or have underachieved like Maurice Stovall and Michael Clayton.
His Fantasy value heading into 2010 could rise if the Bucs give him some help, but Freeman does play behind a good offensive line. A safe comparison is probably Joe Flacco, who has limited talent around him this year but has played well in his second season.
Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris said Freeman still has plenty of work to do before he is tabbed as a future star.
"He picked it up a lot faster probably than anyone else thought," Morris said. "Still, you have to be ready for patience. The young man is still young, he is still wet behind the ears and we are fired up to see him get another opportunity to play."
Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick from Georgia, has started six games. He has 1,265 passing yards with five touchdowns and 12 interceptions, and he has two rushing touchdowns with one lost fumble. He also missed two games with a knee injury.
It's unfair to judge Stafford's Fantasy value completely because Calvin Johnson has also missed two games with a knee injury, and Kevin Smith has been less than 100 percent with a shoulder problem. Stafford could finish the season strong with all three healthy, but he will likely remain a No. 2 option at best in all leagues.
Sanchez, the No. 5 overall pick from Southern Cal, has been the best rookie quarterback for Fantasy owners. In eight starts, Sanchez has passed for 1,443 yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and he has three rushing touchdowns and two lost fumbles.
But Sanchez had two solid outings in Week 3 against Tennessee and Week 8 against Miami where he reached at least 21 Fantasy points in each game. He has the best chance to be a potential Fantasy option the rest of this year of the trio of rookie quarterbacks, especially with Jerricho Cotchery now healthy and the addition of Braylon Edwards.
Sanchez also should be the best Fantasy option next year, but it will depend on if the Jets bring back Edwards as a free agent or add another wide receiver. He has a great offensive line and a running game that opposing defenses will have to respect.
Stafford has the best weapon with Johnson and a good running back in Smith, but he needs help to make the leap from backup Fantasy quarterback to starter. And then there is Freeman.
We don't know how good he can be with just one start, and the Bucs have plenty of issues to address on offense heading into next year, notably at receiver with Bryant a free agent. But now we get to see what Freeman can do.
There is reason for hope after his first start, but Freeman has eight games left to prove that the quiet assassin can make plenty of noise with his play on the field.
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