Statistics let us remove emotional stimuli and focus on the hard truth of what happens. But we need to place statistics into their environment to gain context and understand what’s really happening. Fitzpatrick having 60% accuracy doesn’t tell you any real information, but 60% accuracy throwing against man coverage gives you something to work with. That’s the purpose of this season-long project.
Let’s get this out of the way, these numbers aren’t fully objective. There’s a lot of subjectivity involved with interceptables, drops, single vs full reads, and even what the coverage faced is. This is still a subjective analysis. It’s just adding numbers to that subjective analysis.
Vindication came one Bills matchup too late, but it was vindication nonetheless for Ryan Fitzpatrick. An entire week analyzing Fitzpatrick’s road performances and history against Rex Ryan came to the forefront of NFL media after a poor performance against the Bengals. But only one sub-par drive stood between Fitzpatrick and his best performance as a Jet yet.
Six of Fitzpatrick’s 10 throws past the 20 yard line were caught, and two of the four that fell incomplete weren’t his fault. Were the offseason stories about improved arm strength true? They might be.
All 10 of Fitzpatrick’s passes over 20 yards. Mostly jump ball throws (which is good), a great throw to Decker, and one underthrow to him pic.twitter.com/Jpz1ImIevY
— Edward Gorelik (@edwardgorelik) September 21, 2016
Let’s go through all 10 of his deep passes, in a quick-summary form:
- The safety on the left side hovers over the #2 and #3 receivers on the pre-snap. Fitzpatrick assumes he’s supporting those corners. He’s right, the safety sits down and watches those routes, leaving Enunwa one on one. The throw is perfect for Enunwa to corral in stride but he decides to adjust and catch it over his head, hurting his chances for YAC.
- Rex shows a double a-gap blitz and full man coverage on the pre-snap. Fitzpatrick knows his offensive line is shifting left, leaving a RB dealing with the right side. Shuffling to the left side as the play goes live (a great move to give the running back more time), he recognizes both receivers lack of leverage on his initial look. Now under pressure, he switches to the right side and throws as far as he can for Marshall and draws a flag.
- An obvious Cover-1 pre-snap look that Fitzpatrick makes them pay on. His eyes focused downfield as he drops, Fitzpatrick knew he was taking this throw before the snap. Marshall doesn’t have any leverage on this play, so Fitzpatrick throws a rainbow jump ball and Marshall finishes.
- His best pass of the night and one of his best as a Jet. The pre-snap shows a cover-2 where (just out of the frame) the safety over Decker is sitting on the right hash. He’s caught watching the play action and is not in position to help the corner deal with Decker’s speed. Fitzpatrick gets a perfect throw to Decker while stepping up to avoid the edge rusher.
- That night’s worst deep pass follows. Receiver motion leads to an ambiguous coverage by the defensive backs as the outermost corner takes a deep drop. It turns out to be a Cover-3 with a blitz. Fitzpatrick’s pocket begins to collapse and a defender threatens him as he sets to throw. Decker is heading inside up the seam but forced to adjust outside due to the trajectory. Fitzpatrick almost allows the corner a play on the ball, but is able to throw it far enough that it doesn’t happen.
- A zone pre-snap look where only two defenders are on the right side against three routes. Jets have a sail concept (Vertical + Out + Flat) where FItzpatrick reads from high to low. Marshall doesn’t have leverage but given how good the deep bombs have been at connecting, he takes it anyway. The pressure bears down as as Fitzpatrick enters his throwing motion leading to an underthrow. Marshall adjusts but can’t hold onto the ball.
- Another single high safety look, Fitzpatrick has always been the type to take the deep throw when he sees this. He already knows he’s going deep before the snap (I assume this from experience watching him, because of the hitch that leads to an immediately turn and throw), and it’s another jump ball lob. The corner knocks this one away.
- Similar to pass #1, the safety on the left side is sitting between the slot receiver and the tight end. When the safety is eyeing the slot after the snap, he makes a chemistry pass to Jalin Marshall who has no leverage over the top. An underthrown ball easily reaches Jalin, who stops and cuts under the corner to make the play. It’s a highlight play for the young WR.
- Bills show another single high look, with the second safety sitting in the box on the right hash. The playaction catches that safety again and Decker’s out and up (which I don’t think he sells all that well) leaves the corner chasing ghosts. Fitzpatrick can’t hit Decker in stride at this distance, but still gets the ball to him.
- The single high safety look again beckons Fitzpatrick to go deep. He opens looking at Marshall to keep the safety away from his pre-determined choice of Decker, and as he hits his final step he immediately turns and throws. It’s also underthrown (and listed as inaccurate) but Decker’s able to adjust to finish this.
I don’t think this deep completion rate is realistic for Fitzpatrick because of how he got a majority of them, but his arm looks better than ever before. The underthrows are occurring far less in this game and turning them into jump balls is great news for the Jets. Fitzpatrick might be able to finally shed the limiter role and start becoming an opportunist. He can take advantage of what’s created around him instead of having to rely on others to help him through his flaws.
The biggest difference in this game compared to the previous Bills games was a much simpler pre-snap read given by Rex’s defense. Whether that’s because he was frightened by the chunk plays or the Jets receivers, Rex wasn’t using his disguises. That gave Fitzpatrick all the confidence he needed. Fitz could work mainly off his pre-snap read and spend the game away from where most of his struggles have come from.
On top of that, Rex’s man coverage focused defense works right into the Jets biggest strength: Having big talented receivers.
Enunwa and Decker’s stats speak for themselves: domination. A ridiculously high efficiency of 20.4 and 16.4 YPA. Fitzpatrick’s passes to them were the best they’ve ever been in a single game. Marshall was good too, but Fitzpatrick’s YPA throwing at him ignores the drop and defensive penalty. Which means it was better from Fitzpatrick’s perspective than it was from Marshall’s.
Jalin is the least talented of these monsters, but he still created another problem on the field the Bills weren’t ready to deal with. On top of the his highlight play from the earlier montage, was this:
This was a nice play by Fitz, designed or not. looked at screen, saw it wasn’t there, checked seam, and threw it behind Jalin to keep from S pic.twitter.com/b4UuzxJNiI
— Edward Gorelik (@edwardgorelik) September 20, 2016
Both safeties are very close to the line of scrimmage before the play. Before the ball is snapped, one safety runs deep while Fitz is still under center. Fitzpatrick looks for the screen to Marshall but sees the corner waiting for the throw. Instead of forcing it, he turns towards the slot corner, and then down the seam where he finds Jalin. The placement of the throw allows Jalin to put his body between the ball and the safety, keeping it safe. It asks a lot from the rookie, but he delivers by finishing through the hit.
But it all comes back to the deep ball. It’s stereotypical at this point to say it, but the deep ball opened up the field and Fitzpatrick’s throwing chart shows that.
To me, this is Fitzpatrick looking like a win-now quarterback. Even if he can’t have this kind of productiveness going deep every game, being consistent underneath while throwing jump balls would be enough. And when some of those do end up hitting them in stride: good luck, opponents.
Four passes were dropped in this game, one from each of Bostick, Marshall, Powell, and Kellen Davis (no surprise there). Fitz lost a total of 32 yards in air.
Fitzpatrick threw four inaccurate passes, two of which were saved for 29 yards.