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Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Sports

Ryan Fitzpatrick: Five things to know about the Bucs' new backup QB

New Bucs backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is best known for being one of the smartest players in the NFL. The former Bills and Jets starter was a math major at Harvard with a wonderlic score of 48, but what else do Buccaneers fans need to know about him?

Here are five more things to know:

He could provide the experienced backup the Bucs lack behind Jameis Winston.

The Buccaneers will be Fitzpatrick's seventh team of his 13-year career and brings experience into the otherwise-young quarterback group. Jameis Winston is still only 23. The other quartebacks on the Bucs roster — Sefo Liufau, Sean Renfree and Ryan Griffin — are all 27 or younger and without a start to their names.

Fitzpatrick has 116 career starts including at least one for each of his previous six franchises.

RELATED: Three keys to a better Jameis Winston

He had the NFL's worst passer rating for a starter last year.

After an impressive 2015 in which he threw 31 touchdown passes, Fitzpatrick's numbers came back down to earth hard in 2016. His passer rating of 69.6 was the lowest of any quarterback who threw 14 or more passes per game, and his interception rate of 4.2 percent was well above the next-highest starter, Philip Rivers, who was intercepted on 3.6 percent of attempts.

He struggled in the clutch in 2016.

On his way to a 5-11 season with the Jets, Fitzpatrick often found himself behind late in games and needing to take risks. His fourth-quarter passer rating of 42.8 last year was a long way below the next-lowest player (Blaine Gabbert with 54.1). In fourth quarters he threw 10 interceptions and three touchdown passes on 109 attempts (51.4 completion percentage).

Late interceptions set Fitzpatrick back in 2015 too. In the Jets' finale his three fourth-quarter picks against the Bills knocked them out of playoffs.

Injuries have consistently made him a starter.

Fitzpatrick earned his first start for the 2005 Rams after leading St. Louis to a comeback victory following an injury to starter Jamie Martin. Since then, he has started in place of injured quarterbacks with five other teams, impressing the Bills and Jets enough to win the long-term starting job. Twice, in Houston in 2014 and last year with the Jets, Fitzpatrick began the season as the starter and found himself benched before an injury thrust him back into the starting lineup. Should Jameis Winston go down at any point this season, Fitzpatrick has experience in taking over.

RELATED: Bucs option for experience in Fitzpatrick signing

He's been very effective with two-tight end sets.

With 2017 first-round draft selection O.J. Howard joining Cameron Brate, the Buccaneers are poised to use more multiple-tight-end sets. If Fitzpatrick is needed, those sets may be where he's most capable. Last year, Fitzpatrick posted a near-perfect passer rating of 155.8 in two-tight-end sets, completing 85.3 percent of his passes for 407 yards and four touchdowns without any interceptions.

Contact Daniel O'Boyle at doboyle@tampabay.com. Follow @dan_o_boyle.

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