Fitzpatrick directs traffic against the Vikings.
Negative: Fitzpatrick and the Bills soared to a 5-2 start, but they finished the season a dismal 1-8.
Positive: Ryan Fitzpatrick compiled an impressive 98.4 quarterback rating through the Bills first seven games.
Negative: Fitzpatrick’s quarterback rating plummeted to 65.2 through the final nine.
Notice a trend?
Point being, the Bills coaching staff, front office and fans would prefer that he make any negative tendencies a thing of the past. That would include—but not be limited to—those mistakes from last year’s preseason and final nine games.
And wouldn’t you know, through the first two preseason games of 2012, it seems that Mr. Fitzpatrick is doing his best to oblige.
Let’s now go through a rundown of the three positive things to take away from Ryan Fitzpatrick’s preseason performance.
Well, maybe not so much on that whole eye-test thing.
At the most basic level, Fitzpatrick looks the part of an NFL quarterback.
(Okay, please hold off from denigrating me as a complete fool; this first slide isn’t totally asinine.)
The Harvard grad is a smooth operator behind center. Well, to be precise, in Chan Gailey’s shotgun-heavy, spread-like offense, Fitzpatrick runs the no-huddle fluidly and without interruption once a play unfolds.
He calls plays early (by design), surveys the defense and, depending on his real-time assessment, either sticks with the play or calls an audible. This isn’t to say that Fitzpatrick is the second coming of Peyton Manning.
Rather, it reveals his immense capacity for knowledge of the game of football. He acts proactively yet also reactively when the need arises.
Simply put, he runs this timing-intensive style of offense quite effectively. He understands, executes and communicates it well to the players around him.
Minus one illegal-formation penalty (in which two receivers lined up next to each other on the line of scrimmage) and a delay-of-game infraction, Fitzpatrick has orchestrated the Bills offense in the way it was intended.
It’s his offense—he calls the shots (Chan Gailey’s questionable temperament notwithstanding).
Fitzpatrick has underrated abilities as a passer on the move.
A 25-play sample size and 56-percent completion percentage doesn’t exactly lend credibility to this assertion.
Nevertheless, the two-game sample that predicates this article offers sufficient evidence.
In the first series against the Redskins, Fitzpatrick threw a strike to Stevie Johnson on a sideline-timing route. After executing an effective throw on a quick slant over the middle, he hit Johnson in stride once again on the left sideline for a touchdown.
(Only problem was that refs called it back due to that aforementioned illegal formation.)
Fitz continued hitting the short and intermediate routes. He then completed one of his best passes of the preseason.
Tight end Scott Chandler ran a deep-seam route. Fitzpatrick threw an absolute bullet on the money where only his receiver could make the catch up high and in stride with his 6'7" frame.
Fitzpatrick also put on a clinic during his third offensive series in Minnesota. He first led David Nelson on a perfect out-route for a first down. Despite a flow-interrupting penalty on rookie offensive tackle Cordy Glenn, Fitzpatrick maintained the drive.
He diagnosed the pocket collapsing, moved quickly to his right and threw a strike over the middle while on the move. It hit Johnson right in the numbers for a first down (a fumble shortly thereafter brought it back a few yards).
The Buffalo quarterback followed that up with a perfectly timed over-the-middle slant that went 31 yards for a score.
But was Ryan Fitzpatrick perfect in every facet of the game through the first two weeks?
One could observe a mistimed pass, an overthrow and passes behind receivers.
That said, it was the fact that Fitzpatrick evolved from his mistakes and thoroughly improved from one game to the next.
And with that in mind…
Fitzpatrick likes to stay positive.
Again, it’s only from one game to the next, but the idea still applies.
Fitzpatrick elevated his first performance—one sullied by a sub-50 completion percentage—into a thoroughly efficient 8-for-11 outing the next time around.
More so, the second game featured a Vikings secondary—Josh Robinson in particular—whose blanketing coverage simply beat well-thrown passes and caused those few incompletions.
Equally significant is that Fitzpatrick improved his production while on the road. He made tougher throws and implemented a few more complex plays featuring misdirection and different formations.
We also cannot forget the touchdown pass and the fact that he bounced back from a day when receivers dropped passes, ran the wrong routes and when refs called a touchdown back due to a penalty that was unrelated to the play.
As an analyst that is thoroughly accustomed to poor quarterback play on the West Coast, I believe there is sufficient reason to deem Fitzpatrick as a signal-caller that’s making the appropriate strides. He’s not there yet, but he may just earn that lucrative contract sooner rather than later.
And if a few hypotheticals come to fruition (i.e.: receivers emerge outside of Stevie Johnson, Fred Jackson stays healthy and the offensive line gels), the bearded Harvard graduate will be primed for a career year.
Exciting developments happening in Buffalo? For the sake of those tortured yet devoted fans, let’s hope so.
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