QB Fitzpatrick to back up Edwards in Buffalo (Getty)
On the opening night of the NFL's free agent signing period, the Buffalo Bills made their first acquisition of the 2009 season when they agreed to terms with former Bengals backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. The four-year veteran out of Harvard was targeted by the Bills as the backup to current starter Trent Edwards, and that's exactly the role he'll assume in Buffalo.
After spending two seasons as the third quarterback of the St. Louis Rams, Cincinnati acquired Fitzpatrick via trade to back up Carson Palmer. He did not see any game action during the 2007 season; however, after Palmer was lost early on in the 2008 campaign, Fitzpatrick went on to play in thirteen games (starting twelve), acquiring the most significant playing time of his nascent professional career.
Now he's a Bill, and if we're lucky, he won't see the field for a single snap next season. In the likely event that he does see game action, however, it's nice to have some sort of expectation as to the type of play we'll see from him. Joining us today to discuss Fitzpatrick the player and his performance last season is Josh Kirkendall, lead editor of SB Nation's Bengals blog, Cincy Jungle. Here's what he had to say about his team's now former backup quarterback.
On his general opinions of Fitzpatrick as a backup
"He's a decent backup, and should be a decent acquisition for the role he'll be playing with the Bills. He's not a foundation quarterback, and if he's forced to start the majority of any season, I would expect that team to struggle for the post-season."
On Fitzpatrick's general athleticism
"His legs are a major advantage, and he can scramble out of hopeless situations. His ability to escape the pocket, and recognize gaps in the underneath zones, allowed the Bengals to sustain drives because he found a way to pick up first downs with his legs when the to-go yardage on third down was less than ten yards."
On his abilities as a pocket passer
"In the pocket, everything needs to work out into perfection for his passing to be an effective asset for any offense. The biggest issue is that he's quick to panic out of the pocket, and his turnovers are a tremendous concern. Admittedly, a lot of what Fitzpatrick did, or couldn't do, was relative to many factors affecting the Bengals, like any other quarterback in the league. Plus, our system could have been too much for his style of play."
On his history of being turnover-prone
"His 11 fumbles, five of them lost, were major frustrations with fans, and absolutely killed drives, as well as his nine interceptions. It wasn't until late in the season when the Bengals offense started moving the ball with a decent rushing offense, as well as simplified passing progressions (limiting Fitzpatrick's options, most of which were quick three-step drops), did he sustain any success."
In short, it sounds like we've got ourselves a typical backup quarterback - a solid athlete that can't be a starter for any significant stretch simply because he's streaky with mistakes. That's fine. Fitzpatrick's smarts and his ability to make plays with his legs are strong selling points. Still, let's not get all amped up about seeing him get a lot of playing time - if that happens, the team is sunk.
Many thanks to Josh for dropping the knowledge. Be sure to visit Cincy Jungle for all things Bengals.