NFL 2016: Another big year for Fitzpatrick, D key for Jets

BY foxsports • September 5, 2016

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Ryan Fitzpatrick had a lot of time during the offseason to think about what could have been for the New York Jets.

Sure, the final numbers were pretty impressive: a 10-6 record, the offense ranking 10th overall, the veteran quarterback setting a franchise record with 31 touchdown passes. But the Jets finished a win shy of the playoffs, and that stuck with Fitzpatrick for a while.

With his long, drawn-out contract stalemate behind him, and a new one-year, $12 million deal in his pocket, Fitzpatrick is ready to build off of last season.

''Just from reviewing last year, there's so many things we can get better at,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''We did some things well. I thought by the end of the year, we were playing decent. But you sit and you look at all the missed opportunities from last year and there's a lot of ways we can get better.''

Fitzpatrick threw interceptions on each of the Jets' last three possessions in the season finale against Buffalo, a game that would have put New York in the playoffs with a win.

There's some unfinished business for the 33-year-old Fitzpatrick. And he feels good about what Todd Bowles' team has going on.

''I'm excited to see what's to come for us on offense,'' Fitzpatrick said.

A lot of the Jets' success will fall on his shoulders. With a defense again expected to be among the NFL's best, New York needs Fitzpatrick to at least approach last season's career-type year.

''I actually think he's better this year,'' wide receiver Brandon Marshall said. ''He's throwing the ball much better, with more velocity, he's throwing it deeper. He seems comfortable back there. He's looking really good. He's impressive.''

Here are some things to know as the Jets prepare to host Cincinnati on Sept. 11:

TOUGH START: New York will have a good feel for how its season will go by Week 7.

Five of the Jets' first six opponents were playoff teams a year ago, and six of their first nine games are on the road. After opening against the Bengals, New York is at Buffalo against former coach Rex Ryan, at Kansas City, home against Seattle, at Pittsburgh and at Arizona.

''It doesn't matter who we play,'' Bowles said. ''If you win 10 games or double figures, your schedule is going to be tougher. That's just part of the league.''

DOMINANT D-LINE: While Darrelle Revis remains one of the best cover guys in the league, Bowles' aggressive defense starts up front with the big men.

Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams are back to anchor the defense, and Steve McLendon slides into the nose tackle spot vacated when Damon Harrison signed with the Giants.

Wilkerson is fully healthy after breaking a leg in the regular-season finale and coming off an offseason in which he got a five-year, $86,000 deal. Richardson is suspended for the first game of the season for violating the league's personal conduct policy last summer, but he's motivated to be the playmaker he was his first two years. Williams appears primed for a breakout season in his second year, looking to improve on his three sacks after being the No. 6 overall pick.

FORTE FITS: The Jets signed running back Matt Forte in the offseason, envisioning him to be a pass-catching presence out of the backfield in Chan Gailey's offense.

He's two years removed from setting an NFL record for running backs with 102 receptions for Chicago, and he should be a nice complement to wide receivers Marshall and Eric Decker, who combined for 26 TD catches last season. Forte dealt with a hamstring injury that sidelined him for much of training camp, but he played in the third preseason game and felt healthy, so there's no lingering concerns.

BLIND SIDE: Ryan Clady was acquired from Denver a day after fellow left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson surprisingly announced his retirement after 10 seasons in which he never missed a game or practice.

Clady is a four-time Pro Bowl selection who has been terrific when healthy, but that's been an issue lately. He has missed 30 games over the last three seasons, making him a risky proposition for an offensive line that lacks depth. But Clady appeared healthy in camp and fully recovered from a torn knee ligament.

QUICK IMPRESSIONS: Both Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan stressed the need to get faster overall, and they addressed that on defense in the draft.

First-rounder Darron Lee is a versatile inside linebacker who goes sideline to sideline and can be used in a variety of situations by Bowles. Third-rounder Jordan Jenkins is an outside linebacker who can help set the edge while also providing a pass-rushing presence, along with Lorenzo Mauldin, who's entering his second season. Both Lee and Jenkins are expected to get lots of playing time as rookies.


AP NFL website: and