It wouldn’t be the preseason if we were not completely panicking about something. This is what the preseason is for, is it not? One of the hot panic topics is former first overall pick Eric Fisher, who is coming off of a rough rookie season and two major surgeries. His play Sunday night caused a lot of concern throughout Chiefs Kingdom and fueled the growing conversation that the Chiefs top pick is a bust.
Fisher talked with the media Tuesday – an interview you can watch on the Chiefs website – and discussed some of the things going on with him. Herbie Teope of Chiefs Spin will help us out with some tweets.
Chiefs LT Eric Fisher said he’s not using recovery from shoulder injury as an excuse, but said after major surgery “body will get fatigued.”
— Herbie Teope (@HerbieTeope) August 19, 2014
Eric Fisher on rehab: “I stayed on top of everything … Right now it’s a rebuilding process, getting through the tail end of it here.” — Herbie Teope (@HerbieTeope) August 19, 2014
In a nutshell, LT Eric Fisher echoed a lot of what Chiefs coach Andy Reid told us during Monday’s media conference call.
— Herbie Teope (@HerbieTeope) August 19, 2014
We knew when the Chiefs took Fisher that he was going to be something of a project. Luke Joeckel was considered the more polished offensive lineman while Fisher had the higher potential ceiling but had some edges that needed to be smoothed out. One of those edges was getting bigger and stronger. Fisher was listed at 306 pounds (which may be generous) coming out of college but he played like he was under 300 pounds. Since last season Fisher has said he’s put on about 20 pounds, which would seem to indicate he was not playing at 306 last season. A 326 pound tackle isn’t going to do well in Reid’s offense.
Adding the weight and the strength was going to be important for Fisher because his biggest weakness was defending the bullrush. One didn’t need to be a long time scout to see that the power rush was what got Fisher in the most trouble, and while technique was apart of it he was also not strong enough to deal with some of the more powerful rushers. So strength is a huge key for him.
What we know is Fisher is coming off two major surgeries including one to his shoulder, added about 20 pounds to his frame, and did not practice for most of the OTAs. Even in training camp Fisher has been held out of some of the one-on-one drills in favor of furthering his shoulder rehab.
In short: Fisher isn’t fully healthy and is still a developing lineman.
Of course this is an issue to the overall quality of the line as it relates to this season. The Chiefs are going to need Jeff Allen to look much better than he did Sunday night to help relieve some of the pressure off of Fisher. Further, Donald Stephenson and Zach Fulton each had poor performances against Carolina’s stout front seven.
Here were the PFF grades from Sunday night’s Panthers game for the offensive linemen:
Kansas City needs stability at left tackle given the instability elsewhere else, yes. But one man cannot solve the kind of performance the rest of the offensive line put up on Sunday night. Fisher is the whipping boy because of his draft status, but putting all of the offensive line problems on him is wrong.
People are going to look at him through the prism of Fisher going 1-1 in the draft in 2013. But it should be noted the players who were selected directly after Fisher are not necessarily lighting the world on fire either. Here are the top three selections in the draft along with the rest of the first round offensive linemen and what they did in their rookie seasons:
OT Luke Joeckel: Played 5 games before getting hurt… -7.7 PFF Grade
DE Dion Jordan: -0.4 PFF grade, 2 sacks, never started a game, only 339 snaps
OT Lane Johnson: -14.5 PFF Grade in pass protection as a right tackle
G Jonathan Cooper: Missed entire season with broken fibula.
G Chance Warmack: -8.1 PFF Grade in pass protection
OT D.J. Fluker: -7.9 overall PFF grade -11.8 pass protection grade, total -12.3 overall grade in 4 LT starts
G Kyle Long: -1.7 overall grade as a right guard but did make the Pro Bowl so…
OT Justin Pugh: Only tackle with a positive overall grade (1.9) but had -7.1 pass protection grade.
C Travis Frederick: Best rookie 1st round lineman. +14.6 PFF grade overall but had -7.9 pass protection grade.
It is clear the 2013 draft was shallow on top end talent, but rules stipulate that someone has to be draft first. There simply wasn’t a lot the Chiefs could have done with that pick given what we have seen so far from the first round selectees.
For now Fisher is here and, based on his contract, he isn’t going anywhere for at least two more years. The question is whether or not Fisher has the basic ability to develop into a quality football player. Give Fisher a chance to develop and get healthy before we pass judgement on him.