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Film study: Chiefs OT Eric Fisher's progression, Part 1

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The 2013 top overall pick had struggles during his rookie season, but was progress made throughout the year?

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a 2-14 season and an overhauled front office, the Kansas City Chiefs sat with the first overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. After much deliberation, general manager John Dorsey selected Eric Fisher, a 6'8, 306-pound offensive tackle out of Central Michigan University.

Fisher had ample expectations from the outside coming into his rookie season, with many expecting a dominating figure to pair with Branden Albert. Instead, Fisher went through the trials and tribulations of a typical youngster, earning a -13.3 pass-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus while starting 13 games at right tackle.

For this film study, I went back and watched every pass-protection snap from Week 7 and Week 15, against the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders respectively. I saw some things that I expected, and others that surprised me.

Today, the breakdown of Houston's film. Tomorrow, the Raiders game.

Week 7 vs. Houston Texans

The Chiefs entered this game with a 6-0 record, while Houston was giving rookie quarterback Case Keenum his first NFL start. As it turned out, Kansas City was able to survive with a 17-16 victory on the back of a vicious pass rush.

In the contest, Alex Smith completed 23 of 34 passes for 240 yards and an interception. The Chiefs called 37 pass plays, with Fisher lined up at right tackle for all of them.

Of the 37 passing plays Fisher was involved in, I charted the downs and distance for each occasion. This is my system:

•Any play on first down was considered a run/pass opportunity.

•Second and more than seven was considered a passing down, with anything less being a run/pass.

•For third down, anything from three yards and up was charted as a passing down. Less was a run opportunity.

Here is the breakdown:

Play type Frequency
Run/pass 15
Pass 19
Run 3

The Chiefs failed to gain much yardage on first down in this game, forcing some obvious passing downs on second and third. Houston was able to come after Kansas City with vigor, although Wade Phillips did not blitz very often. In fact, Fisher only had to pick up a blitzer once.

Fisher saw a bevy of looks from Phillips, who is known as one of the best defensive coordinators in the game. Fisher dealt with 300-pounders and fast linebackers screaming off the edge, along with stunts and other moves which will be broken down below. The Chiefs also failed to build any type of lead, keeping Kansas City from going to a run-first mentality.

Here is how his one-on-one opponent breakdown looks:

Opponent Frequency Pressures Hits Sacks
Brooks Reed 11 1 0 0
J.J. Watt 10 2 2 0
Whitney Mercilus 7 0 0 0
Antonio Smith 5 0 0 0
None 2 0 0 0
Ed Reed 1 0 0 0
Tim Jamison 1 0 0 0

Fisher saw Watt and Reed more than anybody else, giving the rookie one of the toughest tests he will ever face. Going against this duo, Fisher held up very well by not allowing a sack and only three pressures among 21 chances. Of all 37 plays, Fisher only received help five times. One of those times was quite a sight, with Dwayne Bowe chipping Watt off the line, followed by Anthony Fasano and Fisher getting him to the ground. Bowe went on to make a reception.

Of all the film from this afternoon, I was very impressed by Fisher's lower-body technique. One of the main takeaways I had from Donald Stephenson's film study last week was his leg strength and ability to anchor. I see many of the same traits out of Fisher, although Fisher gets a better bend at the knees and hips.

Below, we get a good look at one of the plays where Fisher excelled against the Texans.

Here we have Fisher (No. 72) about to kick out and defend Reed, who is lined up above Fasano.


Fisher gets good bend at the hips and extends his arms to meet Reed at the point of attack. Fisher has his hands in the middle of Reed's chest, showing a perfect technique.


Fisher gets his hands a bit high, going up towards the head. Still, check out the leg positioning. He has elite leverage here, shoving Reed out of the pocket. Reed's feet are almost off the ground, with only his toes maintaining contact.


As Smith releases the ball, Fisher finishes Reed by tossing him to the ground after he attempted to move inside Fisher's left shoulder. This concludes a textbook play.

Now, there were some problems that were evident in this game. Fisher had some issues with letting a pass-rusher get to his chest first. Fisher was a bit tentative against the Texans at times. Most of the time Fisher was able to recover, but occasionally was beaten flat. Below is one of those examples.


Here we have Fisher lined up against Watt, almost heads up with Watt slightly slanted toward his inside shoulder. This matchup 1-vs-1 is a problem for almost any offensive lineman in the league, and Fisher is no different.


Fisher is in good position here with good bend in his knees and hips once again. The problem? Watt might be the strongest player in the NFL and is going to showcase that raw power in the next frame.


Watt literally rips past Fisher with a quick inside move, throwing his left arm off his body. Fisher is now guarding the air with Watt bearing down on Smith. Fisher failed to get a good punch in this frame, and it cost him.


The result of this play is Fisher desperately diving toward Watt, who forces a quick throw. More importantly, Watt gets a big hit on Smith, in my estimation the biggest shot he took all day.

Here is another play that illustrated why Fisher needs to improve:


Backed up inside their own 5-yard line, the Chiefs need solid execution. Unfortunately, Fisher almost costs Kansas City two points on this play with poor technique. Considering the Chiefs won the game by a point, this could have been disaster.


Again, Fisher begins with a good stance. He has a wide base and good bend with his hands ready to strike. Reed is coming off the edge, giving the appearance of a speed rush off the outside shoulder.


The reason for this frame is simple; look at the space between Fisher and Jon Asamoah (No. 73). There is virtually no room for a rusher to push through right? Wrong.,


Reed spins back to the inside, the first time any Texans player tried a spin move against Fisher. Obviously, Fisher is beaten very badly. He utilizes poor technique, lunging too far and overplaying the outside shoulder. Reed now has a chance for a game-changing play if Smith holds the ball too long.


This needs no explanation. Fisher is left guarding the "H" in Chiefs, while he catches a huge break with Smith unloading the ball out of harm's way.

As for how the Texans attacked Fisher, here is how their moves break down:

Moves Frequency Pressures Hits Sacks
Bull rush 23 2 2 0
Speed rush 9 1 0 0
Stunt 2 0 0 0
Spin 1 0 0 0


Overall, Fisher did a great job. Of the three plays I took pictures of, two were negative, making it perhaps appear he played poorly. In fact, those were the only two plays he struggled during the entire contest, but I wanted to show where improvement was needed.

In the second half of the game, Fisher did now allow a pressure. Most impressive was his improvement throughout the day against Watt and Reed, two of the better pass-rushers around. Fisher got better as the day went on, sealing off the right side.

Tomorrow, we will look at how Fisher's game got better or worse when he played the Raiders, two months after this game against Houston.