How a back-shoulder throw shows Ryan Fitzpatrick's early impact in Washington

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How one throw shows Fitzpatrick's early impact on Washington originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

According to the calendar, the throw occurred in late May. The beauty and timing of it, however, looked like something that would happen in the middle of November.

During an 11-on-11 portion of Washington's OTAs session on Tuesday — the team's first of the spring — Ryan Fitzpatrick scanned the field before locking onto Cam Sims, who was hustling down the right sideline.

Now, Sims was covered tightly by a defender on his inside shoulder, meaning Fitzpatrick had to direct his attempt toward the boundary and then hope that the wideout would be able to acrobatically snare a ball that was intentionally chucked behind him.

Fortunately, that's exactly what Sims did, as he successfully hauled in what would've been a lengthy first down in meaningful action.

Following the conclusion of the morning practice, coach Ron Rivera explained how he felt that particular sequence exemplified Fitzpatrick's early imprint on an offense that he was essentially leading for the first time since signing with Washington in March.

Though the signal caller and his target barely knew each other, Fitzpatrick had the wherewithal and the confidence to lead Sims to the exact position he needed to be on that rep.

"It was a perfect back shoulder, Cam saw it at the right time, made the right move and made a heck of a catch," Rivera said. "That was really cool."

"I do not know if he has ever had that ball thrown to him in that trajectory on the back shoulder," Fitzpatrick said during his own presser. "He reacted to that and went and got the ball. Those are the type of things that, as we continue through this process, other guys are going to see and we are all going to be able to learn from each other.”

That connection resulted in a positive gain, but Fitzpatrick would've been completely fine if it didn't, too.

To him, OTAs, the upcoming veteran minicamp as well as training camp all represent opportunities for him to feel out players he'll need to fully understand, and who'll need to fully understand him, come Week 1. And if that exercise leads to a few summer duds or turnovers as it unfolds? Eh, so be it.

“Everyone is a little bit different in terms of the way receivers run routes and expect the ball," he said. "I am going to put it in the spot I believe it needs to be. That is going to result early on in some incompletions and then we can talk about why I threw it where I did."

In 2020, Washington's offense ran smoother once Alex Smith took over, which certainly wasn't coincidence. Smith was limited when it came to attacking opponents, but his experience was unlimited, and that intangible quality made a difference for a group of young contributors.

In Fitzpatrick, Rivera and the organization somehow found a signal caller that has comparable experience to Smith — they're both members of the 2005 draft class — but also a guy who'll be much more willing to plant and fire into the immediate and deep areas of whatever defense he's facing.

So, the hope is that there'll be more outcomes this season like the one involving Sims on Tuesday — where Fitzpatrick generates gains thanks to a combination of his intelligence and bravado — which will differ from the more methodical approach Washington used on its path to the division title. 

Even in just one two-hour get-together, Rivera was pleased to notice at least one sign of the unit's potential with its new QB at the helm.

"I think because he has so many games under his belt, he’s had so much success under his belt, that he’s gotten the players’ respect already," he said.