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Jets offensive line keeping Ryan Fitzpatrick on feet

After struggling to keep defenders off the quarterback, the Jets offensive line is suddenly doing it better than anyone else

FLORHAM PARK: It's one of the more impressive statistics pertaining to the Jets through the first quarter of the season. It's likely more noticeable considering how things have gone in recent memory.  

In the past, opponents regularly made trips into the Jets backfield for weekly dates with the team's quarterback. Actually, entering 2015, New York had allowed 94 sacks (47 each year) in its last 32 games. They allowed the sixth-most sacks in 2013, and the eight-most in 2014. 

But this year? This year things are different. 

Ryan Fitzpatrick has been brought down just twice in four games. That's the fewest in the NFL.

"I think the guys up front have just done a great job," Fitzpatrick said. "That's something we pride ourselves on. I know they take a lot of pride in it. That's a stat that we like to keep low.

"I think we're right on track in terms of what we're doing with not giving up a lot of sacks."

While Fitzpatrick has been far from perfect this year, the fact the quarterback has been kept upright for the majority of each game is a big reason the Jets presently sit 3-1. It's been a rare occurrence that Fitzpatrick has been running for his life. He's had time to set up in the pocket, find an open receiver and throw it his way. That time has contributed to the strong start from receiver Brandon Marshall, who's already caught 30 passes for 400 yards and three scores. 

Each week in practice, Fitzpatrick said offensive coordinator Chan Gailey puts an emphasis on keeping the quarterback on his feet. But much more goes into accomplishing that than simply having a dominating offensive line. 

"It's a couple things," Jets center Nick Mangold said. "It's Ryan getting the ball out quick, it's the receivers being where they need to be and having (running back) Chris Ivory helps, too. When you look at the way Chris is running, that would help out any team."

This Sunday against the Washington Redskins, the Jets front will face a tough challenge. Washington is allowing the sixth-fewest average yards per game, the 12th-fewest points and have brought down the quarterback 10 times-- 10th most in the NFL. Fitzpatrick said he knows the team represents a challenge, but added he believes the Jets are ready to face it. 

"They're very physical up front, they're a tough defense," Fitzpatrick said. "They're ranked high in a lot different categories. We definitely have our hands full."

If Fitzpatrick wants to beat the Redskins, aside from staying on his feet, he's going to need to fix the one issue that has plagued New York quarterbacks for quite some time. Sure, Fitzpatrick's 60 percent completion percentage is nice, as are his 924 passing yards and seven touchdowns. But in the interception category? Both the quarterback, and his head coach, admit he needs to be better. 

"He needs to stop throwing interceptions," Jets coach Todd Bowles said Wednesday.

In four games, FItzpatrick has been intercepted six times. He's on pace for a career-high 24 interceptions-- that's a mark neither Mark Sanchez or Geno Smith reached during their time under center. One of the big reasons Jets coaches felt confident with Fitzpatrick at quarterback was because they believed he wouldn't turn it over. But if his, and on the regular basis he's been, a change could be made. 

For each of the six interceptions Fitzpatrick has thrown this year, he's sat down with Gailey to review each. The goal? Figure out what he did wrong, and don't do it again. 

"Each one is different, there's a different scenario," Fitzpatrick said. "You try to group it into categories. Was this a bad decision? Was it a bad throw? Was it one that was tipped at the line and that's going to happen? How can we prevent this and make it better next time?

"In looking at those plays, and even there's some that you're not throwing interceptions but it's close to a turnover, you really have got to evaluate those plays. I've got to understand why I'm making certain decisions and learn from each play."

While Fitzpatrick has reviewed each mistake he's made this year, he's not dwelling on them. One quarter of the season is done, but there's still three more to play. With the Jets off to their most promising start in years, the quarterback knows just how far the team goes will be up to him. 

New York's defense will keep them in games; Fitzpatrick just can't lose them. 

"The first four games are over with," Fitzpatrick said. "Me personally, and all of us as an offense, have to continue to work in practice and continue to put a better product out there on the field each and every week. I think we have the right guys to do that."

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Connor Hughes is the New York Jets beat writer for The Journal Inquirer and Scout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@Connor_J_Hughes), or via email (connor_j_hughes@yahoo.com)


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