Last week, we couldn't stop talking about Eric Fisher. Is Fisher a bust? Did the Chiefs draft the wrong tackle? Is he injured? Is he not tough enough? Is his pass protection going to sink the team? Is Fisher sufficiently awesome to be on a team coached by Dave Toub?
Gifs were made. Posts were written. Writers tweeted (one of the most absurd of which indicating Fisher might not play this year. I refuse to even say who, for the sake of not obeying the clear "look at me, guys" move). Fans freaked out. It was all very fun to watch and pretty dramatic, even for the preseason (which tends to attract drama).
Then the Steelers game happened and all of a sudden everyone stopped talking about Fisher. Sure, a couple things were said about him immediately following the game, but all has been quiet on the western front. So... uh... what happened? Did we suddenly lose interest, or what? I have no idea, but all the questions raised about Fisher last week made me wonder... IS Fisher ready for the pros, or is he going to be a liability out there? I've always figured that he would have an inconsistent rookie season, given his background. But many have predicted he would be a weak link after an admittedly rough outing against the 49ers.
My only choice is to go to the tape. One game is definitely a small sample size, but since many were willing to crucify the guy after one game that doesn't bother me too much. So let's take a look at that Steelers game. It's worth noting, before we even start, that Fisher was spending his evening working against noted stud LaMarr Woodley and solid DE Ziggy Hood.
(Note: I am not an offensive line expert. Nor am I interested in showing off my ability to Google proper terminology. All I'm doing is discussing what I see in the most "every-man" way possible. Also, as always with these breakdowns, I'm not interested in the result of the play. I'm only interested in Fisher and how he does)
Snap 1: Run play. Fisher has no one to block, as Asamoah picks up Hood. So Fisher goes to the 2nd level and shoves Lawrence Timmons, appearing to be trying to seal him from the outside. It doesn't accomplish anything, given the fact that Jamaal Charles got hit very early on the play. However, had JC gone that route Timmons would've been walled off. They exchange shoves when the play ends, which I love.
Snap 2: Pass pro, alone against Hood. Doesn't give any ground, but does allow Ziggy to get his hands to the inside. However, again, no ground is given and Smith gets the pass off fine. Granted, it was a very quick throw, so Fisher would've had to really get killed to hurt that play.
Snap 3: Again alone against Hood. This time gives absolutely nothing. Another quick throw.
Snap 4: JC's "long" run. Fisher and Asamoah are both on Hood and shove him back roughly 700 feet (give or take).
Snap 5: Run right. Fisher does a solid job against Hood, but the play gets blown up.
Snap 6: Alone against Woodley. Keeps Woodley in front of him and helps provide a nice pocket for Smith to throw from. Again, though, it's a quick throw. So he didn't need to hold Woodley off long.
Snap 7: Sack of Smith on 3rd down. This was absolutely not on Fisher, as he and Asamoah were doubling #93 and, after giving a little ground, stonewalled the guy (as well you should when you double). Rather, the left side of the line broke down. It's worth noting that on this play Anthony Fasano did a solid job on Woodley on the outside.
Snap 8: Fisher alone against Woodley on a play-action pass. Does an absolutely phenomenal job against the rush. Woodley attempts a spin to no avail. Really good snap for Fisher.
Snap 9: Another pass, Fisher against Hood. Holds him off with ease, but Hood had his head up and appeared to be more 2-gapping than trying to rush.
Snap 10: This was the 3rd and 1 where JC got screwed out of a 1st down with an atrocious spot. Fisher ended up against Woodley, but they're relatively removed from the play. Quick engagement, then Woodley tries to throw Fisher aside to move toward the run. He manages to get Fisher off-balance, but the play is over by then. The left side of our line was really struggling to open lanes for JC.
Snap 11: The 4th down. Fisher was part of the problem here, as he let Troy P shoot past him. Fisher made a diving attempt to stop him, but was too late. Granted, it wasn't Troy P who made the stop (the left side of the line got absolutely no push), but he still managed to get to the backfield and disrupt the play.
Snap 12: FIsher alone against Hood. Not much time to engage, as it was a very quick throw to Hemingway.
Snap 13: Fisher chips Hood, then passes him off to Schwartz to take on Woodley. He manages to use Woodley's momentum to ride him to the ground. The problem is Hood never got effectively picked up, and JC seems to slip trying to get around Schwartz (who was in his way). I re-watched this play about 15 times and I still can't tell if Fish did well here or not. If he'd delivered a stronger shot to Hood out of the gate this play might've gained some yards.
Snap 14: Pass pro against Jason Worilds. Absorbs a punch (I mean, you know, a "punch." Not an actual punch. That would've been fun to see, though) without moving, keeps Worilds well out of the pocket. Quick throw again, though.
Snap 15: Fisher alone against Hood on a quick pass, stays upright and holds him off with no trouble. Hood was hesitating a bit, so Fisher basically just needed to keep his feet and stay in front of him.
Snap 16: Smith's rollout completion to Bowe (the one where he didn't get smacked). The whole defense buys the play-action, including a couple of blitzers that overload the right side. Fisher is against Hood, and Hood goes nowhere. He was just as fooled as the rest of the defense, though.
Snap 17: Quick throw incomplete to Avery. Fisher keeps Hood well away from Smith, but AGAIN, it's such a quick throw he basically just has to not suck to keep Smith clean for the throw.
Snap 18: Taking on Woodley in pass pro. Seems to have him walled off pretty well, but Alex Smith gets happy feet and rolls right, allowing Woodley to disengage and pursue. Bad play by Smith here, as he could've just stepped up into a perfectly good pocket. It looks like Smith saw a blitzing Timmons coming and thought he needed to escape, but JC ended up laying a decent enough block to slow him down. Smith needs to trust the protection more and keep his eyes downfield on this play.
Wait... on FURTHER review, I'm pretty sure this was supposed to be a screen, but JC got a little too caught up in his initial block of Timmons. Which could explain why Smith bailed so quickly.
Snap 19: The OL creates a beautiful pocket for Smith, but Fisher doesn't really have anything to do with it. Anthony Fasano does such a great job on the edge rusher and Asamoah does such a great job on his man that Fisher is left with no one to block.
Snap 20: 3rd and long, Chiefs in shotgun. Fisher ends up alone against Hood and lets him go absolutely nowhere. A beautiful pocket for Smith results in a nice pass and a conversion to Hemingway (who, for reasons known only to Hemingway, chooses to take the opportunity to play catch with himself.
Snap 21: Run up the middle. Fisher helps drive both Hood and Woodley way back (along with Schwartz). The rest of the line doesn't hold up there end, though, and it's a minimal gain.
Snap 22: Another quick throw, this one incomplete to Bowe. Fisher against Hood, trade punches with no ground given.
Snap 23: Fisher alone against Woodley, does a great job sliding his feet and moving him around the pocket. Really nice pass pro play here. Even the homer Steelers announcers (those guys were the worst) commented on Woodley's inability to get around Big Fish.
Snap 24: Alex Smith's Kap impersonation (seriously, Smith's got some wheels). Fisher lets Hood by initially, but recovers well and pushes him past the pocket.
Snap 25: Pretty quick throw to JC in the flat. Fisher alone against Woodley and again gives him nothing. He's had great snaps against Woodley this game.
Snap 26: JC short gain. Fisher was one of the only guys up front to get any real push. If that run goes right it goes somewhere.
Snap 27: 3rd and goal, shotgun. Pass left to JC, Fisher has no one to block. The OL has a whole did a great job here, though.
Snap 28: Shotgun (we're in that drive before the half now). Fisher picks up Hood on a stunt (tons of movement at the line by the Steelers this play, the line did well picking guys up) and keeps him at bay very well.
Snap 29: Shotgun again, Fisher picks up Woodley and once again engulfs him. Smith delivers an absolute strike to Fasano for a 1st down (maybe his best throw of the game).
Snap 30: Weird play. Fisher passes off (and seems to completely ignore) a blitzing Larry Foote, which seems odd as he's left with no one to block for a moment. He ends up picking up Hood and does well holding him off, and JC picks up Foote. But Smith is flushed out the pocket, first, resulting in a big hit from Troy P as he throws (A heckuva throw on a run, considering he was about to get plastered. Whoops, I'm talking too much about Smith...)
Snap 31: Shotgun, quick throw to Bowe. Fisher seemed confused here as to whom (who?) he should pick up and ends up blocking no one. Not a great look when you're looking around wildly for a guy to block.
Snap 32: Shotgun, Fisher alone against Woodley (at least, I'm 90% sure that's Woodley. I can't see the number). Another great job keeping the pocket clean, this time riding him past where Smith is standing.
Snap 33: 3rd down, this time Woodley goes with the power move. Nothing. After 2-3 seconds of handfighting, Woodley manages to move Fisher aside. But he loses all momentum toward the QB doing so, and doesn't even get a step toward Smith before the throw is gone. You can see Fisher's strength here as well as his rawness. He's too strong for a bull rush (from a guy who is great at it), but the vet is able to beat him when they engage by getting him off balance. That said, it's still a really nice snap.
Snap 34: Spiked ball.
Snap 35: Doesn't have to engage Woodley very quickly, as Woodley looks to try and use speed to fake outside then go inside. Fisher doesn't bite, moving his feet well. By the time they engage Smith is releasing the TD pass to Hemingway.
Pro Football Focus, in their stats, gives Fisher credit (or blame, I suppose) for one pressure, no QB hits, and no sacks. Re-watching, I have to say I'm not sure I'm seeing where they even saw a pressure. But it doesn't make too much of a difference from the overall point. Which is...
Fisher had a great game in pass protection. It's worth talking about. Especially since everyone in the world was jumping all over Fisher when he had a rough performance against the Niners. And it's not like Fisher was taking on 3rd stringers or some garbage pass rushers. He had multiple snaps against Woodley, who is the best SOLB in the NFL not named Justin Houston (an argument can be made he's better, really).
In addition, on a day when the rest of the line was really struggling to run block, Fisher looked decent doing it. Hopefully they go back to running to that right side a little more.
So hat's off to you, Big Fish. Going toe-to-toe with one of the baddest dudes you'll face all year, and you didn't just hold your own. You shut him out. Here's hoping it's a preview of things to come.