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Buffalo Bills: Why Ryan Fitzpatrick Will Have a Breakout 2012 Season

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 11:  Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Buffalo Bills stands at the line of scrimmage against the San Diego Chargers during their NFL Game on December 11, 2011 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images
Robert QuinnCorrespondent IJuly 4, 2012

It's may seem pretty odd to peg an eight-year veteran as having a "breakout season", but Buffalo Bills' quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is a completely different story. 

Since being drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the 2005 NFL Draft, Fitzpatrick has been a backup journeyman for the greater portion of his career. That is, until February 7, 2009, when he signed with the Buffalo Bills. 

With incumbent starter, Trent Edwards, at the helm, Fitzpatrick was listed as a backup quarterback once again. However, when Edwards went down with an injury, Fitzpatrick played well. When then-head coach, Dick Jauron was fired, interim head coach Perry Fewell named Fitzpatrick the starting signal caller for the remainder of the year. 

When Chan Gailey took over, Fitzpatrick was again relegated to the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart, until the third week of the season after some atrocious play by Trent "Captain Checkdown" Edwards.

In the past two seasons as a full-time starting quarterback for the Bills, Fitzpatrick has completed 60 percent of his passes for 6,832 yards, throwing 47 touchdowns to 38 interceptions and increasing his yardage by 832 yards last season. 

Many pundits will explain that it takes roughly three years of play to determine whether a player is a solid prospect for a respective franchise.

Well, Fitzpatrick is entering his third season as a starting quarterback for the Bills. This all comes with a knowledge of Coach Gailey's playbook, who has been his coach since he became a full-time starting quarterback. 

Another thing Fitzpatrick has going for him that should ensure a breakout season is that the team brought back his favorite target—Stevie Johnson—who was the first wide receiver in Buffalo Bills history to gain 1,000 receiving yards in consecutive seasons. He has also had time to become acclimated with former undrafted free agent-turned slot receiver David Nelson, who should be on pace for about 60 receptions this season. 

Furthermore, Fitzpatrick is learning from quarterback coach, David Lee, on proper footwork technique that had hindered his play, as well as some accuracy issues:

My accuracy this offseason is higher than it’s been in my whole NFL career,” Fitzpatrick told BuffaloBills.com. (David Lee) charts everything. He charts when we’re throwing one-on-one, team and even on air. He’s making sure that I’m getting the most out of everything. You see it in the numbers now and hopefully it translates to one the field as well.

Fitzpatrick continued to prove his will to learn under Coach Lee, adding:

He’s all about the lower half. The footwork, making sure you’re not getting your feet in the way of your hips when you’re throwing the ball. That’s something we’ve worked on a lot because I have an issue with balls I’m throwing to my left, just making sure everything is open so I’m not closing my hips off and can’t fire with balls dying. There are a lot of things that we have been looking at after he made a bunch of clips from last year of specific throws that I’ve struggled with.

If all goes according to plan, and the offensive line can stay healthy, coupled with the consistency he has developed with his wide receivers, the Bills' quarterback should be poised for a breakout season and help the team make a playoff run this year. 

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