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NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2013 Could Be Do-Or-Die Year for Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Josh Freeman

Daniel Shirey-USA Today Sports

Right now the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have their starting quarterback, and chances are that isn’t going to change this season. Josh Freeman doesn’t have anything in the way of competition on the current roster, and it’s doubtful the Bucs are going to make any big free agent acquisitions at QB.

But that doesn’t mean that Freeman isn’t on somewhat of a hot seat.

Freeman has been something of an enigma in his first four NFL seasons, so it’s not really clear to the Buccaneers what they have in the young quarterback. Is he the guy who helped lead the team to a 10-6 record in 2010, amassing 25 touchdown passes against only six interceptions and orchestrating five 4th quarter comebacks? Or is he the guy who threw 22 interceptions and ended up with a 74.6 QB rating in when Tampa went 4-12 in 2011?

Or, he could be somewhere in the middle of those two, which is basically what the Buccaneers got from him in 2012.

2013 is going to be the year that Josh Freeman has to prove himself as a top tier NFL starting quarterback, or else the Buccaneers are going to go QB shopping in the 2014 draft. Freeman’s biggest saving grace this year is that there really aren’t any franchise changing quarterbacks in the 2013 draft, so the Bucs will have their attention turned elsewhere on draft day.

Although Tampa head coach Greg Schiano loves to pound the ball and grind out games, he still needs a quarterback who can lead the offense, and make defenses respect what he can do with his arm. Right now defenders are more concerned about Tampa’s receivers than they guy throwing it to them.

The keys for Freeman to make the Buccaneers believe they have themselves the quarterback they want:

* Cut down on the mistakes, especially non-forced errors. Freeman threw 17 interceptions in 2012–many of them just bad throws.

* Take care of the football when in the pocket or scrambling. Freeman fumbled the ball 10 times in 2012, only one of which was recovered by Tampa Bay.

* Utilize the speedy receivers. Freeman’s adjusted net yards gained per pass attempt was only 6.30 yards in 2012, well below the NFL average. Freeman is going to have to show that he can throw the deep pass accurately to counter when defenses load up the box to stop Tampa’s potent running attack.

It could be a do-or-die year for Josh Freeman in 2013, and showing the team he can deliver on the promise that he has showed in the past will go a long way to making it happen for the better.

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Michael Collins is a Rant Sports Senior NFL Writer, and Atlanta sports columnist. Follow him @GaSportsCraze on Twitter and here on Facebook