Barry Jackson

Dolphins quarterback Fitzpatrick was better than Tannehill last season in these areas

Brian Flores: ‘It’s about getting 11 guys on the same page’

Brian Flores, the newly announced head coach for the Miami Dolphins, talks to the media about how he plans to make his team work together during a press conference in Davie, Florida on Monday, February 4, 2019.
Up Next
Brian Flores, the newly announced head coach for the Miami Dolphins, talks to the media about how he plans to make his team work together during a press conference in Davie, Florida on Monday, February 4, 2019.

Part 1 of a 2-part series on the Dolphins’ acquisitions, this one heavy with Ryan Fitzpatrick chatter:

Ryan Tannehill has never led the NFL in anything, in his seven seasons, except times sacked (one time) and yardage lost on sacks (twice).

Ryan Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, led the NFL in three positive categories last season alone, even while starting just seven games: most 400 yard passing games (four, tying an NFL record), yards per attempt (9.6) and yards per completion (14.4).

That 9.6 yards per pass attempt was the NFL’s highest since Kurt Warner in 2000.

But here’s the question: Was that stat and the exceptional 14.4 yards per attempt last season an anomaly resulting from Fitzpatrick getting hot and having exceptional deep ball receivers in DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans? Perhaps so. Keep in mind that Fitzpatrick’s yards per completion was 11.5 the previous season and 11.4 for his career.

But even while benefiting from having quality receivers, Fitzpatrick deserves credit for this: On passes thrown at least 20 yards in the air last season, Fitzpatrick was a very good 15 for 31 for 594 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions.

He was eighth best in the NFL on completion percentage on balls thrown at least 20 yards (48.4 percent) and passer rating on balls thrown that distance (107.2). In just eight games, he had eight passing plays that topped 40 yards.

Hall of Fame receiver Terrell Owens — who played with Steve Young, Donovan McNabb, Drew Bledsoe, Tony Romo, Jeff Garcia, Carson Palmer and others — said on Twitter that Fitzpatrick had the best deep ball of all the quarterbacks with whom he’s played.

Conversely, Tannehill was just 10 for 35 on balls in the air at least 20 yards and had a 70.8 passer rating on those throws last season. So Fitzpatrick is an upgrade in that regard, which might not be a good thing in the quest for a very high draft pick...

Besides having the NFL’s ninth best passer rating overall (100.4), Fitzpatrick had the 10th best passer rating in the NFL last year with a clean pocket (110.2) and the 12th best when under pressure (77.6, compared with Tannehill’s 73.5), per PFF....

Despite his inconsistency throughout his career, Fitzpatrick has been pretty good against the blitz. Going into last season, Fitzpatrick’s 80.2 total quarterback rating against the blitz the past three seasons is better than that of Matt Ryan (79.7) and Tom Brady(78.5), according to ESPN. During those years, Fitzpatrick threw 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions against the blitz and completed 57 percent of his passes.

“He believes he’s as good as the top 10 or 15 quarterbacks on the planet,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy told The Washington Post. “He does not lack confidence.”…

The Dolphins have somewhat protected themselves if Fitzpatrick is really bad this season. Only $1.5 million of his $5.5 million base salary for 2020 is guaranteed, according to an inspection of his contract. He also has a guaranteed $5.5 million base this season, and a lot of incentives. It’s likely he will be around for both this season and next season…

Former Rams coach Mike Martz, who drafted Fitzpatrick in the seventh round when the Rams were in St. Louis, told The Post: “The first thing personnel guys will say is, ‘Well, he’s a good backup.’ Right away, you get branded with that. [Teams] don’t realize he really is part of the solution. Nobody was really committed to him.”…

Fitzpatrick makes use of check downs and play action (his 96.2 passer rating on play action last season was 10th-best in the league).

“[Fitz] is very good at keeping drives alive,” Buccaneers running back Peyton Barber told The Tampa Tribune....

One example of why he will be a good mentor to a young quarterback, as Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard explained to ESPN last year:

“He’ll say, ‘This guy’s playing flat-footed’ or ‘This guy is playing with this technique.’ He picks up on so [many] little things in such a quick [amount of] time, even during a game, so it’s good to have that from a quarterback.

“That week of film preparation, he was telling us different things in the film room, like, ‘Expect this coverage on second-and-long’ and ‘Expect this linebacker to play open to the field on this coverage,’ so when a guy can tell you that, and it actually happens repeatedly over and over again, it’s just amazing to see that from him.”…

Fitzpatrick has been pretty good escaping pressure. In his career, he has 2227 yards rushing on 4.5 per carry and 15 touchdowns. As a point of comparison, Tom Brady — who has played four years more — has 1003 yards rushing on 1.7 per carry.

“I think part of being a good runner is knowing when to pull it down and go straight ahead and not waste time going sideways,” Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter said last season. “Fitz does a good job of that.”

And of his ability to gain yards on the ground when needed, Fitzpatrick said: “It’s definitely instinctive. It’s something I’ve always been able to do a little bit and have some success with. I think at times it will keep defenses honest with what they do. It’s not what I’m trying to do. I do it when necessary.”…

New guard/center Chris Reed, who started one game for the Jaguars last season and appeared in nine, posted the same Pro Football Focus grade last season as Jesse Davis – 57th overall among 77 qualifying guards.

His run-blocking and pass-blocking grades were well below average….

Reed said Tuesday the Dolphins did not indicate if they view him as a starter. He had started eight games in three seasons for Jacksonville.

“What they said was they expect me to work my hardest and put the five best on the field,” he said, adding that he views himself as a “physical, aggressive” player.

He said he has worked at both guard spots and center and is pleased to be reunited with Dolphins offensive line coach Pat Flaherty, his former offensive line coach with the Jaguars.

“He’s great coach, great guy, really demands from the players,” he said. “It’s nice coming back in with a coach I worked with for two years. I know what to expect and he knows what to expect from me.”

Sports Pass for $30 per year

Get unlimited access to all Miami Herald sports stories and videos for $30

#READLOCAL

Related stories from Miami Herald

Barry Jackson has written for the Miami Herald since 1986 and has written the Florida Sports Buzz column since 2002.


  Comments