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Josh Freeman takes a surprising step back

Bucaneers' Freeman is pressured by Bears' Moore as Bucaneers' Joseph follows the play during their NFL football game at Wembley Stadium

Tampa Bay Bucaneers’ quarterback Josh Freeman (C) is pressured by Chicago Bears’ D.J. Moore (R) as Bucaneers’ Davin Joseph follows the play during their NFL football game at Wembley Stadium, in London, October 23, 2011. REUTERS/Paul Hackett (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)


This felt like the year Josh Freeman was ready to take the next step on his path to becoming a Pro Bowl quarterback.

Instead, he’s taken a step back like so many other young quarterbacks around the league. (Matt Ryan, Mark Sanchez, Sam Bradford, and Joe Flacco come to mind.)

Freeman’s biggest problem has been his decision making. He’s thrown 10 interceptions this year, which leads the league. He threw six picks all of last year.

NFL Films’ Greg Cosell said on his weekly Yahoo! Sports podcast that he thought Freeman’s game against the 49ers was his absolute worst as a pro. Freeman played better against the Saints, but threw four picks against the Bears in London.

It appears Freeman is trying to force throws that simply aren’t there. That may partly be because Tampa so often falls behind early in games; Freeman is averaging only 6.15 yards-per-attempt in the first half of games this year. It may also be because Freeman has thrown the ball so much; only Drew Brees has more pass attempts.

Stephen Holder of the St. Petersburg Times writes that the mistakes have affected the offensive playcalling, making it more conservative.

"[Offensive coordinator] Greg Olson doesn’t have complete trust in Freeman because he continues to make ill-advised throws,” Holder writes.

Freeman is only 23, and will learn from all the mistakes. He will need to learn from them quickly for the Bucs to be a playoff team this year.