Ryan Fitzpatrick’s last pass of Sunday’s training camp session was a seed, planted on a line to the back shoulder of DeAndre Hopkins just before the goal line for a touchdown in a simulated two-minute drill.
His first snap of the morning was a fumble.
So it’s been for the 10-year NFL veteran and first-year quarterback here: a mixed bag.
Plenty of promise. Yet much to be desired.
“There’s still a long way to go,” Fitzpatrick said on Sunday. “I’ve still got a long of things that I can do, eliminating mental clutter, speeding up the process and all that stuff.”
However much Fitzpatrick may need to improve, the clock is ticking for him to do it. The Texans open the preseason on Saturday night against the Arizona Cardinals. Week 1 of the regular season rolls around on Sept. 7 against Washington. Both whether Fitzpatrick and the Texans are ready or not.
After stints with the Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals and St. Louis Rams, Fitzpatrick was signed this offseason for $7.5 million over two seasons with $4 million guaranteed. Other options were available, both in free agency and the draft. But head coach Bill O’Brien seemed to prefer Fitzpatrick, his veteran savvy and Ivy League smarts.
Fitzpatrick has at times made one of O’Brien’s first decisions as an NFL head coach look like a good one. He’s flashed good judgement with the football, solid accuracy and good enough arm strength — all the makings of a successful quarterback in this league.
But he’s also at times looked like a quarterback with a 27-49-1 career record as a starter, and who’s never won more games than he’s lost in a single season: botched snaps, batted passes and general confusion.
“When I say mental clutter, it’s more just my thought process,” Fitzpatrick said.
“Whether it’s checking in and out of plays or getting guys set up or just a lot of different things the quarterback has to do and getting everybody on the same page.”
To his credit, Fitzpatrick is coming off one of his strongest NFL seasons. He tied a career high 62.0 completion percentage in 2013 and set a career high with 7.0 yards per attempt. Never before had he earned a positive overall rating from advanced stats site Pro Football Focus. But last season, Fitzpatrick got a plus-2.5 — 21st among all quarterbacks and between Alex Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs and Sam Bradford of the St. Louis Rams. And while Fitzpatrick is surely responsible for some of his struggles throughout his career, it’s not like any of the teams he’s played for had a record of developing quarterbacks before he came or since he left.
With backup Case Keenum similarly struggling in his second NFL training camp, and with rookie Tom Savage seeing only limited action, today, Fitzpatrick appears to be the safest bet on the roster at maybe the most important position in the game.
He’s hoping that, come some not-too-distant tomorrow, he’s that guy by more than default.
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