Eric Fisher is good at left tackle.
It's OK to think it. It's OK to say it. It's even OK to sing it, though I'm not sure why you would (unless you're one of those people who walks around singing stuff. Which, to be fair, I totally do. Drives my wife insane).
Fisher, as recently as earlier this season, was a bust. He'd lost his LT position due to poor play and was on the verge of being benched. None of what I just wrote is true, but it was the narrative nationally and even among many Chiefs fans. If you were to browse through the comments here, or take a quick trip through Chiefs Twitter (a dangerous place for any player, to be sure), you'd come away with the conclusion that Fisher is an awful player.
That hasn't been true for quite some time, but there's no need to talk about the past. Instead, let's talk about the here and now. Because in the here and now, Fisher has been playing solid football since the moment the season started.
I've already graded individual games by Fisher this season using the wins / losses / neutrals style of evaluation (here and here, if you're interested), and we'll do that again today. But it's time we start looking at this from a bigger overall perspective. Multiple solid games in a row generally means a solid football player, no?
The Chiefs offensive line has gone through so much turmoil this year that Fisher has been lost in the shuffle. When he was demoted to RT a lot of people assumed it was because Fisher was bad. It was the easy, simple analysis. Reid's explanation that Fisher can play anywhere and Donald Stephenson didn't fit at RT was brushed aside by most. It's now pretty apparent that Reid actually meant what he said (a rarity from a coach, to be sure).
Let's go through Fisher's numbers against the Lions. If you've read this series before, skip the next paragraph.
If this is a first for you, the analysis is as follows; I re-watch the game on all-22 (Madden camera view is good for OL judging), and chart each snap as a win, a loss, or a neutral. A win is Fisher clearly holding off a rusher, or clearly paving the way or walling off a defender in the run game. A loss is Fisher getting beaten one-on-one. A neutral either means he didn't have much to do on the play (say, a quick WR screen to the other side of the field) or didn't really win OR lose convincingly. I lean toward grading tough to avoid homerism as much as possible.
I've recently added "loss percentage" and "win percentage" as part of what I track. It's worth noting how often a guy is outright winning his assignments as opposed to neutral plays. This helps distinguish decent performances (which are indicated by a low loss percentage) from really good performances. I've always considered 10% to be the tipping point for loss percentage. Any more than that and I start asking questions. Less than that I can live with.
Here's Fisher against the Lions.
|Pass Block Win||Pass Block Loss||Run Block Win||Run Block Loss||Neutral||Win Percentage||Loss Percentage|
If you can't tell based on the numbers there, Fisher had a solid game against the Lions. His loss percentage was the lowest full game I've charted since starting to use this method, and his win percentage was the highest.
There were plenty of snaps where Fisher's pass protection looked like like this (you're going to be distracted watching this GIF. Fair warning. Try and focus on Fisher)
Regardless of your stance on Alex Smith, you gotta respect this. pic.twitter.com/rAKkCAIr4h— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) November 2, 2015
The first few times I watched that play I too was distracted by Alex Smith getting HAMMERED by a free blitzer. However, once I'd seen it enough times my attention was drawn to Fisher. His guy goes absolutely nowhere. That's a textbook win for an offensive lineman, and a very decisive one.
Now, not all of Fisher's wins were quite THAT impressive, but he spent the vast majority of the day keeping rushers well away from Alex Smith. As I've talked about previously this season, Fisher's strength has improved this season. In previous years he simply wasn't able to hold up against bull rushes, his lanky (and athletic) frame betraying him against 300-pound behemoths.
This season, he's still not a powerhouse against bull rushes, but he's markedly better at re-anchoring after losing some ground initially. He also has shown a little more power in his initial punch. Again, he's still not strong in a dominant way like, say, Wille Roaf was. But he's developed to the point that his power is no longer a weakness. And with his exceptional athleticism average power is enough to win the majority of the time.
The biggest area Fisher has shown growth, though is as a run blocker. There's a reason the Chiefs have had significant success running the ball the last two weeks despite losing all-universe Jamaal Charles. Swapping out Stephenson (who'd been a disaster run blocking) for Fisher has been about as drastic an upgrade as you can get in the run game. Having Jeff Allen has been a big deal too, but Fisher has been fantastic in that area.
Want proof? Watch Charcandrick West's touchdown run.
Everything about this TD run is gorgeous. Whole OL, West's vision/cuts. But Fisher especially makes me smile. pic.twitter.com/xZK3Vf4FPq— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) November 2, 2015
Watch Fisher just drive his defender all the way across the hole and completely out of the play. That's some bouncer-level escorting going on. The rest of the line did a good job, and West's cutting ability and vision are solid (what a find he's been). But Fisher's block is the most impressive part of this play. And he made multiple blocks exactly like that on Sunday.
So in short, Eric Fisher has (by all appearances) developed into an exceptional run blocker and good pass protector. He's well-rounded and seems to be continuing to improve. But the time for "he's getting better but has a long way to go" has ended. So has the time of any logical discussion of him being a bust, or a bad player.
Eric Fisher is a good left tackle, and is currently the best offensive lineman the Chiefs have. Let it roll off your tongue a few times. It gets easier to say as time goes by.
I'll let Big Fish (he's earned the nickname) and his new partner in a bullish run game Jeff Allen play us out.
Eric Fisher and Jeff Allen seem to enjoy working together. pic.twitter.com/DhGbfqDOgx— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) November 3, 2015