The Impact of Josh Freeman's Benching

Mike Glennon is the next man up for the Bucs at quarterback. How will it impact the offense?

JJ Zachariason pointed out back in July that this is the year to fairly judge Josh Freeman as a quarterback. The verdict is out, and Freeman has been sentenced to an indefinite ride on the bench. The metrics on Freeman are atrocious. If you didn’t know better, you’d think Freeman broke his throwing arm reaching for some pizza (no offense, Nate Burleson).

Out of the 32 quarterbacks with at least 80 attempts this season, Freeman comes in dead last in passing net expected points per attempt. Every time Freeman slings the rock, his team is losing 0.21 expected points. The raw numbers tell the same story: he's dead last in completion percentage (45.7%) and passer rating (59.3), as well as 29th of 32 in yards per attempt (6.07).

The new starter for the Bucs is 3rd-round pick Mike Glennon out of NC State. Glennon’s presence presents questions about the relevant fantasy players for the Bucs, namely Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson, and Mike Williams:

1. Has Freeman’s poor play been negatively affecting his teammate’s fantasy numbers thus far?
2. Is Glennon an improvement over Freeman?

Dougie (Not-As) Fresh

Doug Martin: 2012 vs 201320122013
Fantasy Points/G16.512.5
Rushing NEP/Att0.05-0.05
Receiving NEP/Target0.37-0.05

Martin’s numbers are down across the board this season, and a closer look reveals Freeman may be the cause.

The receiving game was a significant part of Martin’s fantasy production last season, but that's been nonexistent so far in 2013. It is possible that Glennon could get Martin more involved. He completed 25 percent of his passes to running backs in his senior year at NC State while only 16 percent of Freeman’s completions have gone to running backs this season.

Defenses tend to dare unproven quarterbacks to throw by stacking the box with 8-man fronts against the run. However, Glennon does have a strong arm and the deep threat of Jackson and Williams still exists, so there may not be a significant change. But if Glennon struggles early, Martin could have less room to run this season.

We shouldn't expect Martin to return to last year's pace until we see evidence that Glennon can keep defenses honest and also get Martin more involved in the passing game. Don't go selling Martin, though. He's largely 'quarterback-proof' because he plays every down and is the centerpiece of an offense with a solid group of linemen.

Impact on Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams

Vincent Jackson: 2012 vs 201320122013
Fantasy Points/G11.78.8
Receiving NEP/Target0.910.80

Mike Williams: 2012 vs 201320122013
Fantasy Points/G9.66.2
Receiving NEP/Target0.710.47

Both Jackson’s and Williams’ numbers have been down this year as well due to Freeman’s poor performance. Theoretically, there’s nowhere to go but up.

It is notable that coming out of college, scouts pinpointed accuracy as one of Glennon’s weaknesses. This preseason, he completed only 47% of his 70 attempts and averaged only 5.67 yards per attempt. It’s a small sample size, but it’s all we have to go off of. Because Glennon’s preseason numbers closely mirror Freeman’s regular season numbers this year, there is a decent possibility that more of the same is coming.

The good news is that Jackson and Williams remain the team’s main options in a highly concentrated passing attack. Tampa doesn’t spread the ball around because it doesn’t have a viable pass-catching tight end or a great third wide receiver (if only Kevin Ogletree played like it was Week 1 of 2012 every game). In fact, Jackson and Williams combine to catch 70% of Tampa Bay’s targets not directed at a running back.

Expect Jackson and Williams to continue to be reliable fantasy performers based on volume, but don’t expect a repeat of last year’s lofty outputs.

What to Expect from Glennon and the Tampa Bay Offense as a Whole

We don’t have a large enough sample size to truly see how Glennon will do fantasy-wise. His passing characteristics are somewhat similar to Freeman so we shouldn’t expect any drastic scheme changes, although a more conservative approach is always likely with a rookie.

Last season, Freeman put up good enough numbers to finish as fantasy’s 13th-ranked quarterback. Therefore, Glennon’s ceiling could theoretically be a middle-of-the-road QB2 who can be started with the right matchup. However, until we see marked improvement over what he showed in the preseason, he should be off the fantasy radar.

Overall, Freeman's benching shouldn't have too much of an impact on Martin, Jackson, or Williams because their volume of opportunities will still exist. If Tampa becomes even more run-heavy, Martin would obviously benefit the most, while Williams would probably lose out.

The Bucs players' efficiency may take a hit from last season's marks, but remember it already has through three games with Freeman this year. However, with unproven quarterbacks there is always the potential for disaster with the receivers (see: Ryan Lindley & Larry Fitzgerald). Freeman's abysmal play basically forced coach Greg Schiano's hand; Glennon may not be ready.