Ryan Fitzpatrick is facing a firestorm from Jet fans for his lackluster play so far this season, and he contributed to the pile of evidence with his play against the Steelers. He played better than the Chiefs game, but the game plan seemed to limit risks, which caused the offense to sputter consistently. Let’s examine some of the bad magic from Week 5:
During the draft, it’s often emphasized that arm strength shows up on throws across the hash marks to the outside. You will see draft experts rave about big arm prospects having the ability to throw the far out route. Well this is an example of lackluster arm strength from Fitzpatrick, although this is a good read. The defense is in single high safety and Fitzpatrick is locked into Marshall from the start, knowing it’s one on one coverage since the seam route in the middle is going to keep the safety from jumping the route. Fitzpatrick correctly surmises that Marshall will have an opportunity to be open and throws the ball, but it arrives woefully late. The CB gets turned around at the last second, which is a big reason why he did not have a direct line towards this ball, but it needs to arrive earlier consistently for this to be caught on a regular basis. This is not a big sin, and the play is positive since there was a pass interference penalty on this play, which is why the Steelers didn’t challenge the catch ruling on the field, which was clearly wrong according to replays. This one is just pointing out a limitation with Fitzpatrick, even though he makes the correct read because his arm just isn’t strong enough for these throws unless he throws them earlier (at which point the CB won’t be turned around).
This is very similar to the types of plays we see in this article every week. There is a pre-snap read that indicates an easy completion, there is a receiver open on that side, and Fitzpatrick completely ignores it for an incomplete pass to Marshall. The defense is again in single high safety, but the two receivers to the right of the formation have man coverage at the line of scrimmage. However, on the other side, the Jets have three possible receivers with only two defenders lined up on them, and even so they are giving up about eight yards. It’s important to note that this is a 3rd and 1 play as well. Austin Seferian-Jenkins is also lined up with no one directly over him, indicating that one of the LBs has to run over from the middle to cover him, which puts him at a disadvantage being out of position, or he’s not covered at all. In any scenario, the first read needs to be towards the left of the formation because the pre-snap reads all indicate that is the side of the field that has a better chance to be open. So what does Fitzpatrick do? He locks into a one on one coverage with Marshall, and throws a possible interception that Marshall does a good job of swatting away from the defender. These are the types of plays that drive offensive coordinators nuts because the design of the play yielded an easy first down option which should have continued the drive. The entire premise of the offense is to rely on pre-snap reads, which Fitzpatrick did a much better job of doing last year, but for some reason has gone away from it this year. This is a horrible read and throw by Fitzpatrick.
This is a second and 10 play in the first quarter and the Steelers are coming out with a two deep safety look, and the pre-snap movement indicates zone coverage. They have seven in the box, with a second safety coming towards the middle right before the snap. All of this indicates that a screen pass to the RB probably won’t amount to much, but Fitzpatrick is locked in on this play to Powell. Notice the space given to Robby Anderson, and how wide open he is on the curl route to the right of the formation. Even Brandon Marshall is open on the other side of the field on the same exact route. Yet, Fitzpatrick ignores both options for the pre-designed pass to the RB, which goes nowhere. This isn’t even a case of the QB being pressured, having to throw the ball because the pocket is clean. For most QBs, the read is high/low in on this play, so Fitzpatrick has to look at his outside high option (Anderson) and if he’s covered then go to his low inside option (Powell). If Fitzpatrick even looks at Anderson at his break, he’s wide open for a first down but he’s locked in on Powell.
This play is bad for many reasons because they have the Steelers in the perfect defense for this play call. They have a single high safety look against two receivers, but on the first down play, they have stacked eight men in the box. On a play action, the LBs have bit, so this is a great match up for a deep slant route. Quincy Enunwa runs the deep crossing route and is open for the pass but Fitzpatrick bypasses that option for the deep pass to Robby Anderson. While Anderson is covered on this play, he has the inside track on his defender, so the pass needs to be led towards the left side of the field so he can run across and keep separation from the defender. However, this is just a horrible throw from Fitzpatrick as he throws it straight over Anderson which forces him to change directions and puts the CB in the better position to catch this ball. There is a lot of mention of Fitzpatrick locking into receivers, and it’s tiresome to read time and time again, but this is a great example of it. If Fitzpatrick even looks at Enunwa, he has a big completion down the field. However, Fitzpatrick picked Anderson, which wasn’t the worst decision, but it’s just a horrible throw.
The defense is in single high safety and Fitzpatrick turns a screen pass into a sack. While the major fault on this play is on the right tackle, there is a screen pass set to the left side of the field that should get yards on this play. However, Fitzpatrick not only does a ball fake to Forte, but a fake pass to Powell, then a spin to set up for the real screen pass to Forte. The set up on the play is great in theory because Forte is set to run down the field with blockers but the play takes too long to develop. This play is in “Bad Magic” instead of “Assistant’s Failures” because screen passes are tricky to defend. The tackle has to drive the defender outside to open up the passing lane for the screen pass, but this also means there is a limited amount of time to execute the pass. Fitzpatrick takes a split second too much to execute this play, as there is no need to do a complete spin fake pass here, and it blows up on the Jets. This is not just a bad play for Fitzpatrick, this is a horrible play all around.
Another play that isn’t a horrible play, but highlights the conservative nature of the offense against the Steelers. The defense is in a single high safety look and the movement indicates man coverage. The Jets have five receivers on this play, with two to the left of the formation and three to the right. They throw this pass well short of the first down on a 3rd and 9 play, and have to settle for a FG. The right side of the field has two options that were deeper, a go route by Anderson as he’s beating his defender and an out route by Marshall who also beats his defender. Pre-snap read, this is a safe pass because Peake has about eight yards on his defender at the line, but he gets tackled well before the first down marker. The Jets opted for the safer option here, when they need to be more aggressive on offense. The lack of respect for the deep passing game is again persistent, as defenses are letting guys run deep knowing there is minimal chance of an accurate deep pass.
The defense is again in a single high safety look, while the Jets have four receivers lined up at the line of scrimmage. This is a miscommunication issue based on pre-snap reads. The initial look on this play indicates that the Steelers are playing man coverage on this play, but they drop back into zone coverage. Fitzpatrick throws the ball as if it’s man coverage with the LB dropping back to cover Enunwa, so he throws it up the field. Enunwa correctly sees that it’s zone coverage so he slows down for a passing lane in the soft spot of the zone, and the ball is thrown too far ahead of him to catch it. This is just an unfortunate play for the Jets. The full blame can’t go on Fitzpatrick nor Enunwa because it’s miscommunication. However, Enunwa is right in reading the coverage on this play because the LBs did drop back into zone coverage on this play. The interesting aspect from this play is the respect given to Robby Anderson. The defender is about eight yards away from him, and he’ll be wide open for those curl routes. However, remember the first play in this article? Fitzpatrick is lined up on the far side of the hash, so this is the defense betting that he can’t throw that pass on time, and hedging their bet against other routes, either inside or deep.
This is a second and nine play in the fourth quarter and the Jets need to put up points to stay in this game. The defense comes out to a single high safety look, while the Jets show four receivers. Brandon Marshall is lined up the right side of the formation, while there are three others on the left side of the formation. The movement indicates that this is zone coverage on the play. The defender on Marshall is up at the line, while a LB is shading towards that side as well to defend slant routes. In essence, every indication shows that Marshall is going to be double covered on this zone defense play. So naturally, Fitzpatrick locks into him from the snap and throws an incomplete pass. The left side of the formation is defended differently, indicating that there is a better chance of a player being open to this side. There are two defenders giving up at least six to eight yards on their receiver, while a LB has to jump from the middle to defend the third option. The read should be simply be the slot defender and see where he goes and throw a pass based on that, but Fitzpatrick ignores this side completely. Again, notice Robby Anderson open on the curl route. If the Jets could get a QB with great arm strength, this receiver will be dynamic.
The defense comes out in a single high safety look, while the Jets come out in a five wide receiver formation. The defense is lined up exactly the same to both sides of the field, so the pre-snap read is to just pick a side on this play. Ryan Fitzpatrick picks to look at the left side of the formation, and he has Quincy Enunwa open for a pass, but decides to pass it up and run himself right into a sack. There is pretty much no reason for Fitzpatrick to even run up in the pocket on this play as the offensive line is doing it’s job. Fitzpatrick can’t pull the trigger on the pass to Enunwa, and it costs the Jets a sack because instead of sitting back in the pocket and scanning the field, he ran up field right into the arms of a defensive lineman. The failure on this play is heightened because the opposing QB, Ben Roethlisberger, picked apart the Jets defense doing exactly that, scanning the field while patiently waiting in the pocket.
Part of the blame on this play lays on Brandon Marshall, as this is not a great pass, but a great player has to make this catch. However, this is just a bad read and another example of Fitzpatrick locking in on the receiver at the snap. The pre-snap read on this play shows the defense in single high safety with three defenders in the area of Marshall, and a possible receiver from the backfield. The Steelers actually make a mistake on this play by doubling the running back, but Fitzpatrick throws this ball low. Pre-snap, the right side of the formation has three receivers, with two defenders in the vicinity. This is a mismatch the Jets have to exploit, and Quincy Enunwa is wide open for a pass but Fitzpatrick doesn’t look towards him. This is also a 3rd and 2 play, right before the terrible decision to punt the ball. The right side of the formation indicates an easy completion either on the outside curl route or one of the receivers from Enunwa or Davis, since Fitzpatrick just has to read the slot defender. While Marshall needs to make this catch, and Fitzpatrick needs to make a better throw, easier options were available to the Jets. This isn’t hindsight criticism, because if you know the receiver’s routes, you can easily discern that there are going to be open players on the right side of the formation.
This is the Jets final drive, and they are just trying to get some respect at this point. Fitzpatrick does a good job of moving up in the pocket on this play, but makes a terrible throw behind his receiver. This play is another pass that hits the defender right in the hands, and should have been intercepted, but is dropped. It’s just a horrible throw by Fitzpatrick on this play which ruins a good play by him to avoid the rush. The TV angle and this angle both make it hard to determine how close this came to an interception, but this hits the defender right between his hands, as if the pass was intended for him. As you can see, the CB is agitated that he dropped the pass.
Another mediocre game from Ryan Fitzpatrick. He didn’t kill the Jets like the Chiefs game, but the offense was very conservative and missed numerous opportunities to throw the ball down the field. Fitzpatrick continued to show the inability to make progressive reads after the snap, and his pre-snap reading ability has eroded from last year (which wasn’t great to begin with). While statistically, this wasn’t a bad performance and looks better than the performance against Seattle, but this was the 20th ranked pass defense according to Football Outsiders. While Chan Gailey gets rightfully criticized for some of these play calls, he did draw up plays that had players open, but Ryan Fitzpatrick just misread the defense.
Fitzpatrick grade: C
A. What is Ryan Fitzpatrick’s biggest weakness and please explain?
B. What do you think the floor/ceiling is for Robby Anderson?
Thank you for reading our series of film breakdowns for Week 5.