Expert scouting report on Josh Freeman

We’ve talked pretty much all season about how quickly Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman has matured.

Let’s take it one step further and turn to a guy who might be more knowledgeable about quarterback play than just about anyone on the planet. Let’s turn it over to New Orleans coach Sean Payton for his assessment of how the second-year quarterback has developed into a Pro Bowl alternate.

“It has happened fast,’’ Payton told the New Orleans media on Thursday. “He’s someone that has worked his tail off. He’s someone that spends a lot of time at his game. He has great size; he’s a tough guy to sack. I’ve heard comparisons to (Ben) Roethlisberger and from a standpoint of trying to bring him down, there are some similarities. He can extend plays with his feet; you see him outside the pocket to the right and to the left making plays.

“He has great arm strength and he’s very calm in the pocket. It’s not too big for him. We’ve seen a guy like him and his learning curve right in front of our eyes. Now they’re running the ball effectively and they have skill people at the receiver position and the tight end position and you see him distributing the ball to those people very consistently. Obviously he’s playing with confidence and I think those in the huddle with him in turn are playing with confidence.”

Of course, Payton will get his latest look at Freeman on Sunday when the Saints host the Buccaneers in the Superdome.