Two of the opinion leaders in the Jets locker room were bullish on today's back-to-work practice to get ready for their climb up the steep hills of Pittsburgh on Sunday.
"We had a really good practice," quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said, "one of our best of the year for sure."
"Our best practice of the year, I thought," raised WR Brandon Marshall. "Everything from the energy to the guys understanding their assignments."
It would be a mistake to think that the Jets are not concerned about many things after their 1-3 start, and on offense about their league-leading 10 interceptions and 13 giveaways. But there were no questions specifically for Fitzpatrick or head coach Todd Bowles about the turnovers or about Fitz's leadership heading toward the Steelers.
Most of those questions, of course, were asked Monday by reporters and fans. As Fitzpatrick said then:
"I know I'm the right guy [to turn things around]. We've found ourselves in a little slump last year and came out of it. Through all my experience and all the things I've been through in my career, I know I'm the right guy to get this thing headed in the right direction."
Marshall said the same at his locker newser today.
"He's been the usual Fitz — that's what we love about the guy is that he's our anchor, he keeps everything steady, he's the same guy every single day," the wideout said. "No one works harder than him, no one prepares harder than him."
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Marshall went on to make a valid point, that while the picks all go on Fitzpatrick's ledger, a good number of them should be double-entered on certain wideouts' records as well.
"I can say four or five of those are the wide receivers' faults," he enumerated. "the in-cut in Kansas City, that was on us — Jalin [Marshall] ran a horrible route. ... The last game, the last one, I ran a post route, I was supposed to run a slant route, he gave me a slant route. That's on me. That's bad communication. I was supposed to get that. ... Robby [Anderson] dropped the ball and it was a tip. Quincy [Enunwa] dropped the ball and it was a tipped pick.
"So when you look at interceptions, it's protection, it's routes, it's communication. It's not all on the quarterback. Sometimes the quarterback throws the ball into a 'team meeting.' Fitz has done that this year a couple of times. But the other half has been on the wide receiver position. So that's why those guys get paid the big bucks, because when it's good, they get all the glory and all the money, and when it's bad, they get all the trash dumped on them."
Fitzpatrick has never worried about the trash or about his confidence. He noted that the Jets are continuing to work on improving their efficiency and consistency against an opportunistic defense in the Steelers' lair. And he talked up his young receivers, Anderson and J.Marshall, who made two of those mistakes B.Marshall referenced.
"Both of those guys, they've played the game the right way, they have the right mentality," the QB said. "When something like that happens with a young guy, I make sure to tell 'em, 'Hey, I'm coming back to you.' They don't need to put their heads down and think I'm never throwing them the ball again or I'm mad — I make plenty of mistakes. They have to know that that moment is going to come again."
Fitzpatrick's moment is coming again, too, and he's not worried about his latest distinction, of joining Joe Namath in 1970 and Dick Wood in 1964 of being the only Jets QBs to throw nine INTs in back-to-back games. He owns the picks and he's looking forward to reducing them to zero and posting a big win in a hostile environment because, as Marshall says, there is no alternative.
"There's a sense of urgency," Brandon said, "not only with him but with all of us. We know the clock is ticking on our season and we need to get it right."