Jets O-line looks to protect Fitzpatrick from Redskins
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Attention sack-happy defensive players: If you want to get to Ryan Fitzpatrick, you’ve got to get past his five big bodyguards first.
The New York Jets have allowed a league-low two sacks through four games, a stingy start for the men whose job on game days includes protecting the quarterback at all costs.
”I kind of wish we had zero sacks,” right tackle Breno Giacomini said.
It’s that type of pursuit of perfection that has helped keep Fitzpatrick mostly upright this season.
Indianapolis’ Henry Anderson sacked Fitzpatrick in Week 2, while Philadelphia’s Connor Barwin took him down a week later.
That’s it, so far.
”I think the guys up front have just done a great job,” Fitzpatrick said. ”That’s something we pride ourselves on. I know they take a lot of pride in it. That’s a stat that we like to keep low.”
According to STATS, the Jets allowed just one sack through their first four games in 1966, although a sack was not an official statistic back then. The only other time they’ve given up just two in that same span of games was 2003. Giacomini has allowed one of the sacks, according to STATS, while the other is not attributed to an individual player, which happens when a quarterback is judged to be mostly at fault.
Fitzpatrick’s quick release and knowledge of coordinator Chan Gailey’s offensive system have contributed to the low sacks total, as has the Jets’ seventh-ranked running game.
”I’m not going to sit here and say we’ve blocked everybody, but he throws the ball on time,” coach Todd Bowles said. ”He gets rid of the ball. Those guys do a good job trying to get open down the field, then the line blocks depending on what kind of passes we throw. The line blocks pretty good. It all kind of ties in.”
Among players with 100 or more pass attempts this season, the next fewest-sacked quarterbacks in the league are the Giants’ Eli Manning and Houston’s Ryan Mallett, each going down four times.
”It’s not about what we’ve done, it’s about can we keep this going?” Giacomini said. ”As an offensive lineman, to hear that, it’s pretty cool, but we can’t hang our hat on that. We’ve just got to keep getting better. I know there’s only been two sacks, but there have been a number of hits and some guys getting close.”
The 32-year-old Fitzpatrick has shown a good ability to scramble out of trouble, turning near-sacks into solid gains with his legs and rushing for 52 yards on 16 carries.
He might be on the run a bit Sunday, when the Jets take on the Washington Redskins and their aggressive front seven. They have 12 sacks, including 3 1/2 each by Ryan Kerrigan and Chris Baker, and regularly put tons of pressure on quarterbacks.
”They’re not the No. 6 defense in the league just by happenstance,” Gailey said. ”They are physical upfront. Wow, they are strong. This will be our biggest challenge offensively.”
The Redskins are looking to post three or more sacks in three consecutive games for the first time since doing it six games in a row in 2009. Washington also has five takeaways in its last two games after having just one in its first three.
”The scary thing about this defense is that front seven,” wide receiver Brandon Marshall said. ”They’re probably the best in the business right now.”
New York is hoping to get right guard Willie Colon back after he missed the team’s game in London against Miami with an injured knee. Bowles said he could be a game-time decision, but backup Brian Winters was solid while filling in against the Dolphins.
While the Jets are off to a good start, the players have followed Bowles’ lead by insisting they clearly need to get better in several areas. When asked what he’d like to see Fitzpatrick improve upon, Bowles was blunt.
”Not throw interceptions,” the coach said, referring to Fitzpatrick’s six INTs. ”Other than that, he commands the game pretty good.”
At least two of the interceptions haven’t been entirely Fitzpatrick’s fault, with one ball tipped by a receiver and another coming when a receiver short-armed a catch attempt.
Meanwhile, the offensive linemen just want to continue to keep defensive players away from their quarterback.
”Just like every other week, it’s not about them. It’s about us,” Giacomini said. ”What can we do? We need to get better, we’re coming off a bye week and we need to start fast. I think that would be huge for us.”
NOTES: CB Antonio Cromartie was excused from practice for personal reasons. S Jaiquawn Jarrett (knee), WR Chris Owusu (knee) and CB Marcus Williams (hamstring) also didn’t practice. TE Jeff Cumberland (concussion), LB David Harris (quadriceps), LB Jamari Lattimore (concussion) and RB Bilal Powell (groin) were limited.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL