Bucs aren't best in NFC, but they might have best young talent
Raheem Morris was trying to instill some confidence in his young team when he called it the best in the NFC last week.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not the class of the conference. They’re probably not close to being the class of the conference. But at 5-2, and coming off their fifth consecutive road victory dating back to last season, they are a team headed in the right direction with some exciting young talent.
It was all on display in Sunday’s wild 38-35 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. First, there was quarterback Josh Freeman moving his record as a starter in 16 career games to 8-8. He did so with his sixth fourth-quarter comeback and the fourth this season.
That right there tells you the first-round draft pick from 2009 is performing in clutch situations and developing faster than the Bucs could have imagined under offensive coordinator Greg Olson.
“He's resilient, he's wise beyond his years,” Morris said afterward. “He comes to the sidelines and he knows exactly what he wants to do. I can't say enough about him and his team, how he leads those guys and they are following. It's awesome.”
Then there was Freeman’s top target – rookie Mike Williams – going over 100 yards for the first time in a game. He made four receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown, his fourth of the season. It was a 47-yarder that tied the game in the second quarter.
Rookie running back LeGarrette Blount, a shrewd pickup off the waiver wire in September, rumbled for 120 yards on 22 rushes, scoring twice.
For good measure, young cornerback Aqib Talib made two interceptions, including one in the final moments to ice the victory.
The Bucs are far from being a complete team, but in just about every area of the team there are young building blocks for the future. Experience and a little seasoning may be the only thing standing between this team and really turning the corner for good. But they’re doing the things young teams have to do to mature, and that includes finding ways to win the close ones, and winning on the road. You could build a strong case that the Bucs have as much or more young talent than any team in the NFC, that much is certain.
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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune