FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Ryan Fitzpatrick has sensed a change in how his New York Jets teammates are treating him lately.
He’s the starting quarterback now, so wide receivers such as Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker know it’s time to buddy up a bit to the guy who’ll be throwing them the ball the rest of training camp.
”Those guys are a little more friendly to me now,” Fitzpatrick joked Saturday while managing a straight face. ”If I have something in my beard, they’ll hand me a napkin, rather than laughing. They’ll get me water if I need it. That kind of stuff.
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”Life’s a little bit easier in that regard.”
All kidding aside, Fitzpatrick was thrust into the starting spot when Geno Smith’s jaw was broken by a punch from then-teammate Ikemefuna Enemkpali. The Jets are trying to move forward with Smith out 6-10 weeks, and hoping Fitzpatrick slides right into the role as the leader of the offense.
Fitzpatrick played just one series in the preseason-opening 23-3 loss at Detroit on Thursday night, going 2 of 3 for 16 yards and guiding New York to its only points. The goal now is for Fitzpatrick to try to get better acquainted with the playmakers on the offense. He hadn’t gotten much work all offseason with the starters, so the next few weeks before the regular season will be crucial.
”Sometimes we use that word `chemistry,’ but it’s just going out there and practicing and doing your best,” Marshall said. ”So the good thing is Ryan is a smart guy and he really sees the field well. I think the adjustment will be easy for all of us, but it’s going to definitely take some time.”
Fitzpatrick looked awfully comfortable running things near the end of practice, when the Jets were working in situational drills. The offense needed eight points to tie and the clock was down to 6 seconds from inside the 10-yard line.
With a blitz coming from the starting defense, Fitzpatrick stepped up in the pocket and zipped a pass to Decker running a slant for a score. Moments later, Fitzpatrick found Marshall all alone in the corner of the end zone for the tying 2-point conversion.
”Plenty of good, plenty of bad that we can work on from this practice,” Fitzpatrick said, ”but it’s fun being out there and being able to have the discussions and getting the reps.”
Fitzpatrick has been in this situation before – for most of his NFL career, in fact. He has regularly stepped in as the starter in several of his stops, and the fact he’s well-versed in offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s system is a huge bonus.
”He’s familiar with the offense,” Marshall said. ”So, there’s no learning curve for him, if that makes any sense.”
It certainly does. And it was one of the major reasons the Jets acquired Fitzpatrick from Houston in the offseason.
Fitzpatrick ran Gailey’s offense for three seasons in Buffalo, and had arguably the best stretch of his career during that time. He threw for at least 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns in all three seasons.
”He was the quarterback up there and he ran the show up there,” cornerback Darrelle Revis said. ”He’s very experienced, a very smart quarterback. If his options aren’t there, he usually checks the ball down. That’s Ryan for you.”
Smith was having a solid camp, and appeared to have a good grasp on the starting job. Even on the morning of the incident, Gailey raved about the progress Smith had made since minicamp in June. But the fact general manager Mike Maccagnan went out and got an experienced veteran such as Fitzpatrick made the loss of Smith sting just a little less.
”Yeah, I mean, we still have to put the work in,” Fitzpatrick said. ”It makes it easier in the sense that I know what we need to do and how we need to get there. I know what path we need to take, but there’s still a lot of hard work ahead of us to get there.”
That means learning the tendencies of guys such as Marshall, and keeping the lines of communication open. Fitzpatrick said there’s already a ”decent comfort level,” and expects it to only get better with four weeks to go before the regular-season opener at home against Cleveland.
”If there’s a question that I have about why he’s running a route a certain way, if there’s a definitive way I want him to run his route, then we’re going to talk about it,” Fitzpatrick said. ”I’m going to tell him where I stand and he’s got enough experience where I’m going to listen to him a lot of the time, too, but that’s part of it. It’s not just the reps out there.
”It’s sitting back and talking about reps we had or watching other guys go and say how would you run that and what would your depth be? That’s going to be a lot of the chemistry as well.”
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