How the Oakland Raiders can limit Ryan Fitzpatrick

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Oct 4, 2015; London, ENG; New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) throws a pass to wide receiver Eric Decker (87) with pressure from Miami Dolphins defensive end Derrick Shelby (79) at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

Take Away Short Passing Game

It doesn’t take an NFL scout to realize that the Fitzpatrick doesn’t have the arm strength to constantly make accurate throws deep down the field, for the savvy veteran’s deep balls often take the shape of a punted football or, what some would call, “a wounded duck.”

When studying Fitzpatrick’s throwing motion, his deep throws require a significant step up in the pocket and a forward thrust of his body that you simply don’t see in other quarterbacks in the NFL. While creating pressure from the interior should limit his ability to step up in the pocket, Oakland can also force Fitzpatrick to test his deep ball by limiting the predetermined, short passing game.

Fitzpatrick excels at throwing a called slant to Brandon Marshall out of a three step drop or hitting Eric Decker out of the slot when sitting deep in the pocket out of the gun. Given that the offense will always have a step on these type of throws, limiting an effective quarterback from completing those passes to talented receivers like Marshall and Decker will always be difficult, but Oakland can attempt to slow the timing between quarterback and receiver through disguising their coverages before the snap.

Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. can’t remain vanilla in his play calling, for if Fitzpatrick can easily recognize the difference between Oakland’s zone and man coverage D.J. Hayden and company will heavily struggle against shorter passes. While putting your defense in a disguised coverage can sometimes put players out of position at the start of the play, even if the design of the play forces Fitzpatrick to hold onto the ball for a second longer it should lead to an inaccurately thrown ball. There is a huge difference from Fitzpatrick firing the football as soon as he reaches the third step in his drop and him involuntarily holding onto  the football.

Press coverage could also benefit Oakland’s defense in stopping short passes from being completed, but the Raiders would be putting themselves at a disadvantage if they put any of their corners in press man-coverage against the Jets’ talented receiving corps. In press cover 2 Oakland could have success, as the defensive back would not have to follow the receiver upfield after pressing him at the line, but you’re playing with a double-edged sword whenever you elect to press Marshall at the line of scrimmage.

Regardless of scheme, Oakland’s defensive backs have to trust in their abilities to jump shorter routes in order to keep the Jets offense from methodically driving down the field, something they should be able to do with confidence due to Fitzpatrick’s inability to throw the deep ball with consistency.

Next: Fitzpatrick Gameplan: Force Tight Throws