Good day, Who Dats and the EOSB legion.
It’s time again for that one thing I know you all can’t wait for each week. In fact, you probably wake up early on Friday morning’s because you know it’s coming.
View from the Other Side is back and this week, we welcome in friend Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com, who is kind enough to help us out.
Yasinskas is in his third season covering the NFC South for ESPN.com. Prior to that he covered the Carolina Panthers for The Charlotte Observer for nine seasons. Prior to that, he covered the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the NFL for The Tampa Tribune from 1993 until 1999.
Let’s all pause and give Pat our undivided attention.
WWL-TV: Tampa Bay is 3-1 and some people would say that is a surprise. What is responsible for such a quick turn around from last season's 3-13 finish?
PAT YASINSKAS: What you're seeing is the start of the flip side of last year's decision to totally gut this team and go with youth. The Bucs struggled mightily and took a lot of criticism for that last year. It was all justified because the franchise looked to be in complete chaos. I compare this to a construction project. The Bucs completely tore down the old building and left it in rubble. Now, they're getting things cleaned up and you can clearly see the foundation rising.
WWL-TV: The Bucs were somewhat panned for picking Josh Freeman a few years back. He has been more successful this year, obviously. Is he making the natural progression or is he skipping a step? Or is it too early in his second season?
YASINSKAS: Freeman is the single biggest building block in the project I just talked about. He's not a finished project by any means, but I've seen enough from Freeman to know that he's going to be the real deal. He has the physical talent and he's grabbing the mental part of the game faster than anyone expected. He also has embraced his role as the leader of this team.
The best thing I can say about Freeman is he gives the Bucs a quarterback who can win games for the first time in Tampa Bay's history. Think about that. The Bucs always have had quarterbacks who were game managers. Doug Williams would get some shots late in games, but the early Buccaneers were built on having the defense keep the game close.
It was the same thing in the Tony Dungy years, when Trent Dilfer's job simply was to manage the game and not turn the ball over. Even though Jon Gruden is considered an offensive guru, he was using guys like Brad Johnson and Jeff Garcia in a horizontal passing game. With Freeman, the Bucs are going vertical. It's kind of fun to watch them now.
WWL-TV: The Saints offense is all about the pass these days as the run game has been grounded. But the Bucs are No. 9 in the NFL against the pass. What is it that Tampa does so well in defending the air game?
YASINSKAS: Well, it's not the pass rush because Tampa Bay truly doesn't have one. The credit here goes to the secondary. Tampa Bay has two very good cornerbacks. Aqib Talib is quietly emerging as one of the better cornerbacks in the league and I'll have more on that on my blog Friday afternoon. Ronde Barber is a veteran playing at a very high level. The Bucs lost safety Tanard Jackson to suspension, but rookie Cody Grimm has stepped in and is showing some promise. Plus, I've got to give Raheem Morris credit for coaching these guys up. He gets bashed a lot as a head coach, but I think he's making strides. His roots were as a defensive backs coach and that's one of the strongest areas of his team.
WWL-TV: One of the ways the Bucs have beaten the Saints in the past is with a stout run game. What horses are in Tampa's stable and can they carry an offense if Freeman isn't having a good day?
YASINSKAS: These aren't the same old Buccaneers. They've shown little evidence of a stout running game this year, so Freeman has to carry the team. Cadillac Williams remains the starting running back, but he's not putting up numbers. The Bucs have started to work Kareem Huggins and LeGarrette Blount into the rotation, but it's early in the process. The Bucs aren't going to come out and run all over anybody just yet, especially not with center Jeff Faine sidelined with an injury.
WWL-TV: The Bucs are a young team right now. Can they sustain this early-season success over the long haul?
YASINSKAS: Well, if I were a Tampa Bay fan I wouldn't be scrambling for Super Bowl tickets and a hotel room in Dallas just yet. But a run at the playoffs this year no longer is out of the question. At very least, Tampa Bay is now respectable. The Bucs might need one more offseason to really get their talent level where they want. But this is a team on the rise. Like I said, Freeman is for real and, with a strong supporting cast, he could make this team good for a long time.