Chiefs OL: Winning At Musical Chairs

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Eric Fisher received a minus 4.9 in the Broncos game from Pro Football Focus. I normally support the evaluations PPF comes out with but in this case they got it wrong. PPF had a total of three sentences to share in their assessment of Fisher’s performance in the Broncos game. Here’s their statement,

"“Eric Fisher, LT: -4.9 Breakdown: Fisher was tasked with blocking Demarcus Ware for most of the game, Fisher had a rough time surrendering three hits and two hurries (though not all to Ware). Also stood out for his inability to make effective cut blocks at times – see 9:29 and 7:30 of the first quarter for a pair of examples. Signature Play: 4Q, 1:54 – Beaten outside by Ware for a blindside hit and near sack-fumble on Alex Smith.”"

I went back and charted Eric Fisher’s first ten plays of the game and the whole fourth quarter and here’s what was found. The method of evaluation was to simply determine if Eric Fisher did what he was asked to do. If so, I called that a positive play on his part, a win. If not, then I counted it as a negative play and a loss.

In the first ten plays, Fisher performed exactly as designed on 8 plays (8 wins) but not on 2 other plays (2 losses). The two losses were indeed cut-blocks that PFF mentions. In analyzing those plays it looks like Fisher is attempting to stay away from drive blocking which requires using his shoulders and his half-hearted cut blocks only lands him on the ground at the feet of the defenders. However, neither block (both losses on Fisher’s part) were consequential to the play the Chiefs ran.

In the last two drives, when Eric Fisher was most fatigued, he didn’t miss a play and had 16 positive plays (16 wins) and 5 negative plays. There were several plays that he didn’t have anything to do with the play and was neither a positive or negative influence. 5 negative plays may sound like a lot until you consider that only one was considered a pressure. On the other hand, if the Broncos weren’t so totally fooled by Alex Smith’s silent count then perhaps they wouldn’t have had so many penalties and a couple of those penalties really let Fisher off the hook. In any event, Eric Fisher’s overall performance on a strange field in the altitude was a very positive step forward.

Reviewing Eric Fisher’s performance also revealed his superior ability to run block and drive block using his arms and hands. As Fisher becomes more adept at pass blocking and containing all the moves defensive ends and outside linebackers will use on him, he should develop into the left tackle fans have been dreaming of.

On Sunday, Fisher and his shoulder will be watched closely as he goes up against the Dolphins Olivier Vernon. Vernon is 6’2” and 268 lbs. and has 16 sacks in 34 totals games played, which is less than a 50% sack rate per game. As an example of good sack rates per game, take Tamba Hali who hovers around 60% (74.5 in 127 games) or Justin Houston at 63% (28.5 in 45 games). If Fisher is to continue to progress he will need to have a good game against Vernon.

Side Note: I expect for ROLB Tamba Hali to out-duel his old practice mate, LT Branden Albert in Miami on Sunday afternoon. Yes, they know all of each others moves but I don’t think Albert was, or ever will be, the workout warrior that Hali has been and by the fourth quarter Tamba should get the best of him.

While the Chiefs center Rodney Hudson… as well as right guard Zach Fulton… are both expected to remain “as is” when Donald Stephenson returns, the real question marks are related to whatever Reid decides to do with the right tackle and left guard positions. Although Zach Fulton will need to improve dramatically if the Chiefs hope to move up the win column Rodney Hudson can be seen progressing steadily. In the game against the Broncos, Rodney was being asked to do the job of “Pulling”… a job normally asked of guards. Since Zach Fulton is limited in that area, Hudson has done a solid job moving outside and turning the corner then making good contact with defenders at the second level.

An evaluation by PFF, which I’m not at all inclined to disagree with, is their take on the Chiefs new LG Mike McGlynn. At the end of 2013, PFF ranked all teams offensive lines and the Indianapolis Colts line ranked 25th. PFF chose a Stud and a Dud for each line and McGlynn easily nabbed the head Dud award for the Colts by registering a minus 23.4 grade. By the way, K.C finished 20th in PPF’s rankings and Eric Fisher was considered the Dud with a negative 17.8 grade at RT.

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