Fitzpatrick, Jets offense shake off rust against Jaguars
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) It took two series for Ryan Fitzpatrick and the New York Jets offense to shake off the rust from a long offseason.
Once the veteran quarterback got into a rhythm in a 17-13 preseason win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday night, he wanted to keep going.
''I thought we did OK,'' said Fitzpatrick, who finished 3 of 4 for 72 yards. ''We didn't have a ton of plays, so I wish we would've got something more.''
Fitzpatrick and the starters were on the field for just two possessions, as expected, before Geno Smith and the backups took over.
The first drive got off to a promising start with Jeremy Ross returning the kickoff 51 yards to the Jets' 46. It looked like old times right away when Fitzpatrick threw a 3-yard pass to Brandon Marshall, who set franchise records last season with 109 catches and 1,502 yards receiving. After Bilal Powell ran 7 yards for a first down, the offense stalled and Fitzpatrick was sacked on third down to force a punt.
''I took a silly sack,'' he said.
With New York down 10-0 after Blake Bortles and the Jaguars scored on their first two drives, Fitzpatrick led the Jets down the field with midseason-like efficiency.
After a 2-yard run by Powell, Fitzpatrick connected with Quincy Enunwa for 26 yards and then again for 43 to get the ball to the 4. Powell then scooted up the middle for a touchdown.
''We had a great return on the first drive or series, and I wish we would've done a little bit more with that one,'' said Fitzpatrick, who signed a one-year, $12 million deal just before training camp began. ''There was some stuff, some first preseason (game) stuff that we kind of got out of the way. Managed to avoid the pre-snap penalties and turnovers, and that was a plus for us.''
Coach Todd Bowles didn't want to get too excited one way or the other since it was just a few plays in the first preseason game.
''He played OK,'' he said of Fitzpatrick. ''They didn't give us too much hard stuff to play with in the first half. We tried to do a two-minute on the second series of the game and Quincy was open both times, so we got down the field pretty quickly. He was efficient. He was fine.''
Enunwa's two catches opened some eyes, however, and might have been a flash of an added element to an offense that ranked 10th overall last season.
Marshall and Eric Decker received most of the attention, and for good reason, as they finished with a combined 26 touchdown catches. Enunwa, a sixth-round draft pick out of Nebraska in 2015, was used in a hybrid receiver/tight end/H-back role and caught 22 passes for 315 yards.
He appears firmly entrenched as the No. 3 receiver for the Jets, and his two catches Thursday night suggest he could be an even bigger factor in the passing game.
''I had a little role last year and I tried to do the best I could with the plays I had,'' he said. ''This year, I really worked hard on making myself a complete player.''
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound receiver spent most of his rookie season on the Jets' practice squad. New offensive coordinator Chan Gailey found a role for Enunwa last season, using his size and athleticism to provide some mismatches. Enunwa missed four games for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy during his first season, but he came back and established himself as a valuable part of the offense.
''Quincy has done a great job,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''It has been very evident to me through the beginning of training camp that he's going to be a big part of what we do and has really improved as a receiver. He's so versatile and we saw that last year with everything we asked him to do. He can really develop into a big-time weapon for us.''
The veteran Ross and rookies Jalin Marshall and Charone Peake, three wide receivers competing for roster spots, also made solid first impressions.
The Jets have three more exhibition games – two for most of the starters – to see how everything shakes out before the regular season begins against Cincinnati on Sept. 11.
''I think the preseason is kind of a necessary evil,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''You've got to get out there and get in some of those gamelike situations. We'll say it a million times in the next few weeks, probably, but we're not really game planning, so you're just kind of going out there and trying to execute what you have based on what you're seeing that given day. As long as nobody gets hurt, I think it can be very productive for us.''
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