Ryan Fitzpatrick Expectations for 2016

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After four months of contract stalemate, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the New York Jets finally agreed upon a new contract. At first, it looked like Geno Smith may be getting another chance to prove himself. That, however, was gone the moment Fitzpatrick and the Jets agreed to the contract. While Fitzpatrick had a career year in 2015, what can be expected from him this year? Many factors must be weighed, such as his receivers, the schedule, and the presence of Chan Gailey.

Ryan Fitzpatrick Expectations for 2016

The Receivers Should be a Positive Factor

Ryan Fitzpatrick had one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL last year with Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall. The two combined for 26 touchdowns and 2,529 receiving yards. Those two alone had more receiving touchdowns than the combined team totals for 15 different teams.

The reason that the Jets receivers should be a positive factor for Ryan Fitzpatrick this year is due to the other receivers on the team. Tight end Jace Amaro will be healthy this year and there is reason to believe that he will improve upon his rookie season. Matt Forte is a dual threat running back who can accumulate a lot of receiving yards, which Chris Ivory did not do during his time on the Jets. Furthermore, undrafted rookie Jalin Marshall is making a great impression in camp so far. While he may see some time on special teams if he breaks camp, his college success at wide receiver and excellent catches in camp may lead to a bigger role. He has earned praise from many scouts and teammates. Brandon Marshall was one of those to praise Jalin Marshall.

“I’m in love with Jalin, it’s as simple as that,” Brandon Marshall said according to Jets Insider. “The kid is special. I mean, he’s just got it. His mentality, his approach to the game, he’s smart, he has skills. So, he’s a rookie and he has to work at it and get better and we’ll see.”

Both Quincy Enunwa and Devin Smith are also young receivers who have untapped potential. If either one takes a step up in production, then it is yet another door opened up for Fitzpatrick.

The fact that Fitzpatrick has more talented targets around him gives him less of a reason to force the ball to Marshall or Decker. That should translate into fewer interceptions than last year.

The Jets Schedule Should be a Negative Factor

The biggest obstacle that Ryan Fitzpatrick should have this year will be the teams he will be facing. The Jets have a difficult schedule and many of the teams along the way will have tough defenses.

The Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs, and Baltimore Ravens were in the top 10 last season for the least passing yards allowed. The Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Seahawks were in the top 10 last season for the least passing touchdowns allowed. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills, Cardinals, Bengals, and Chiefs were in the top 10 last season with the most interceptions.

These teams will make up 11 games for the Jets next season. Defenses change from season to season, so this should be taken with a grain of salt. However, the chances that all these teams regress on defense are slim. The Jets schedule should be the biggest obstacle Fitzpatrick will have to overcome.

The Continued Influence of Chan Gailey Should be a Positive Factor

As already mentioned, Fitzpatrick had a season like none other in his career. His 3,905 passing yards were the best mark of his career, with 3,832 in 2011 being his previous best. Fitzpatrick’s 31 touchdowns were also the most of his career, with 24 in both 2011 and 2012 being tied for his previous best. His 31 touchdowns were also the most any Jets quarterback has thrown in a single season. These are going to be hard numbers to replicate for a quarterback without much of a pedigree of success in his past. Having said that, a big drop-off looks unlikely.

In his years with the Buffalo Bills from 2009-2012, Fitzpatrick experienced a lot of success. While 2009 was a poor year for him, 2010-2012 were solid seasons. In 2010, he threw for 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns with 15 interceptions in only 13 games played. If given another three games, he could have experienced even more success. In 2011 and 2012, he played the whole season and threw for a combined 7,232 yards with 48 touchdowns and 38 interceptions.

These successful years can be partially contributed to his head coach Chan Gailey, who led Buffalo from 2010-2012. Gailey worked with him last year when he was the offensive coordinator, and will retain the same role this year. While Gailey’s 16-32 record during the Fitzpatrick years in Buffalo is anything but successful, his impact on Fitzpatrick’s offense was successful. It is no coincidence that Fitzpatrick has succeeded in every year that Gailey has been highly influential on his offense. Gailey helped Fitzpatrick run an offense that worked for him last year. This year should be no different.

Projection

After weighing all the big factors that should affect Fitzpatrick’s play, projections can now be made. If Fitzpatrick plays in all 16 games, his numbers should look similar to the following.

Passing Attempts: 580*

Rushing Attempts: 40*

Completions: 360*

Completion Percentage: 62.1

Passing Yards: 3,800*

Rushing Yards: 160*

Touchdowns: 28

Rushing Touchdowns: 1

Interceptions: 13

*Rounded to the nearest ten

Rationale

These statistics show a variety of things. Obviously, it appears that Fitzpatrick is bound for another career year. The reasoning behind this is that there aren’t many negative factors around him except the schedule. Aside from that, the only other rationale for him to do worse at this moment is by calling 2015 a fluke. However, this calculation is not using any speculative factors like that. Instead, it is weighing what he is capable of doing with Chan Gailey, including how he will have more talented targets to throw to, factoring in the difficult schedule, and making a projection in the case that he plays all 16 games.

The reason why he is projected to have more attempts, completions, and a higher completion percentage is due to the presence of Forte, Amaro, and possibly Jalin Marshall, who were not playing with him last year. The same goes for why he is projected to have slightly fewer interceptions.

While his projected passing yards and passing touchdowns look good, they are not better than last year. If he had a schedule equal or closer to last year, then he may have more passing yards and passing touchdowns. While the talented receivers will open more options, there is no guarantee that will translate into more yards and touchdowns.

The fact that Fitzpatrick injured his thumb while rushing last year should give him low numbers compared to last year’s rushing success. Unless he learns how to slide properly, expect his coaches to ask him to limit the rushing.

Overall Fitzpatrick should put up solid numbers. While the Jets still have a difficult schedule, if Fitzpatrick puts up these types of numbers, expect the Jets to be in the thick of the playoff race come December.

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