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The big Eric Fisher film review: The good, bad and ugly

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I think it's only fitting that my final offensive line film review focus on Eric Fisher.

Few players have been the focal point of more arguments over the last few years (OK, that's not really true, considering we fight about everyone. But for the sake of drama, let's pretend it's true). There's been a lot of hand-wringing and general angst regarding Fisher's play.

And for good reason. When you're the No. 1 overall pick, there's a certain amount of expectation and pressure that comes with that. It's just a fact. People largely view the NFL through the lens of the draft, and they want bang for their buck when a guy is taken first in the draft. So when Fisher was less than stellar (significantly so) his rookie year, that set the tone for all conversations about him for years to come.

You can tell he's been in the system a while now.

First impressions are a powerful thing in sports. It can take years for players to shed a bust label or various narratives about their play. There are people who will go to their grave insisting Eric Berry is poor in coverage because he got burned a few times his rookie year. There are people who claimed Jeff Allen sucked long after he had turned into a solid. The simple truth is that once a person has formed an opinion, it is very difficult for said opinion to be changed.

Fisher made a poor first impression. And so, since that time, people have taken as truth that he is bad. Last year, the narrative started to change as more and more people began to talk about Fisher's improvement.

But how improved was he? Well, only one way to find out, no? And that's to go back and watch over 550 snaps of Fisher at left tackle. For you new people, here's how this works...

I watch each snap on all-22 (Madden view is great for OL review) and track the following: pass block wins, pass block losses, run block wins, run block losses, and neutral plays.

A win is where the lineman clearly stops the rusher or eliminates a run defender. A loss is when the lineman gets beat (kinda obvious, no?). A neutral play is where the lineman holds his own but doesn't do enough to win, or the play goes another direction so quickly he isn't asked to do much, OR if a lineman spends the snap as help double teaming defenders (not really winning individually if you've got help).

The most important number is loss percentage. On what percentage of plays are you getting beat? Generally, I've found the goal to be 10 percent. If you can keep your loss percentage under that number, you're a doing a solid job. A little over is acceptable, but once you start ranging too far over 10 percent it's time to worry. Win percentage is less important, but can separate a good performance from a great one.

If you're looking for reviews of other Chiefs linemen ... Here is the Mitch Morse review, here is LDT, here is Jeff Allen and here is Mitch Schwartz. I'll be referencing back to the win and loss percentages of those reviews as a frame of reference with regard to Fisher.

Before I put up Fisher's numbers, I need to note something that happened while doing the film review for this piece. For the first time ever since I started grading offensive linemen using this method, I feel as though the win / loss percentages tell a slightly different story from what I saw on film. It's a frustrating experience to see your own stat fail the acid test of "what does the film say," but there you have it. That said, keep in mind the numbers are the what is happening. The film review is the how and why. The former is good for information as to what happened last year. The latter is more useful for projecting what will happen moving forward.

That said, here are the numbers for Big Fish.

Game PB Wins PB Losses RB Wins RB Losses Neutral Win % Loss %
DET 21 2 19 2 20 62.5% 6.3%
PIT 23 3 18 2 15 67.2% 8.2%
DEN (2) 8 5 8 4 38 25.4% 14.3%
SD (1) 11 4 9 2 36 32.3% 9.7%
BUF 6 1 5 0 9 52.4% 4.8%
OAK (1) 11 3 7 1 25 38.3% 8.5%
BAL 9 3 9 1 29 34.6% 7.7%
CLE 10 4 9 2 29 35.2% 11.1%
HOU (2) 8 2 12 3 35 33.3% 8.3%
NE 20 2 6 5 53 30.2% 8.1%
TOTAL 127 29 102 22 289 40.2% 8.9%

To clarify something on those numbers... the (1) or (2) that is next to the name of the team indicates whether it was the first or second time the Chiefs played said team.

So... that doesn't suck, right?

To provide a little context, LDT had a loss percentage of of 14.3 percent. Zach Fulton's was 11.8 percent. On the other side of things, Jeff Allen's was 8.1 percent, as was Mitch Morse's. And the Chiefs new RT Mitch Schwartz, widely regarded as the best RT in the game, came in with a 6.16 percent in four games that I watched.

In other words, Fisher comes in comfortably on the good side of my magic line (10 percent) with regards to loss percentage. Additionally, his win percentage is at a solid number.

Another thing to note is that Fisher was fairly consistent with regards to staying on the right side of 10 percent. It's not as though he had multiple bad performance (with regards to losses) and made up for them with a few dominant ones. Fisher only had two games in which his loss percentage went above 10 percent, and only one above 12 percent. That's pretty solid.

And really, Fisher does plenty of things well. There's been a lot of talk about Fisher's functional strength, and I would agree that it's been his most significant issue since entering the pros. However, last year that issue didn't rear its head nearly as often.

Here, Fisher is asked to wall off a defender in order to create a running lane. He has an initial advantage because the defender appears to be expecting Jeff Allen to come his way. However, you can see Fisher dig in and give absolutely zero ground even after the defensive lineman has recovered. Fisher does a nice job keeping a wide base and active feet, and his part of the play is an unqualified win.

Now, make no mistake, Fisher is not a powerhouse. When he doesn't have his feet or hands right he'll still get walked (or, at times, run) back into the quarterback's lap. But you could tell in 2015 he was stronger than he'd ever been, and definitely no longer a "weak" lineman. Word is he's upped his weight to 320 and is stronger this year, so we can hopefully expect that trend to continue.

Fisher brings some real athleticism to his spot. You can see why Andy Reid would like him, given what he expects his offensive linemen to do as run blockers. Fisher excels getting out into space and making stuff happen at the second level.

Here, Fisher has to go a LONG way to reach the linebacker he's after. Not only does he get there in time to make a difference (before the runner arrives) but he does a great job locking on to the linebacker. A lot of offensive linemen lunge in space, or are outmaneuvered by linebackers and secondary players (who are, naturally, far superior athletes to offensive linemen). Not so with Fisher. he sticks those second level blocks more consistently than any other lineman I watched, including Morse. And being better than Morse at ANYTHING is high praise.

Fisher's functional strength increase is noticeable when he is run blocking as well. He was often asked to walk defensive players multiple yards to blow open a hole for runners, and generally did so.

Overall, Fisher is a big, fast lineman whose strength has come far enough to be at least average as a pass blocker and seemingly more so as a run blocker. In fact, I wouldn't be exaggerating to say that Fisher has developed into a very, very good run blocker.

In pass protection, when Fisher is on he's absolutely ON.

When Fisher remembers that he's got feet, his footwork is generally top notch. He's able to slide with anyone and stay between them and the quarterback. He's also got some power in his punch when he uses it, and maintains a wide base to prevent himself from being overpowered even while in the process of kick sliding.

I would also say that Fisher is at the point that he knows what he's doing assignment-wise (as well he should at this point in his career). I didn't see Fisher bite on many stunts or delayed blitzes, and he stays busy on the rare occasions he's not asked to block a defender one-on-one. You can tell he's been in the system a while now, as he seems to be in the right places at the right times (something that's tough to quantify, but you can tell when it's happening and, more importantly, when it's not).

So we've got a physically gifted lineman who is a great run blocker, knows the system well and rarely seems to make mental errors. Good things!

Whether you're in the Eric Fisher is really good camp or the Eric Fisher is mediocre camp, you've got some ammo either way.

But...

(You all knew a "but" had to be coming, no?)

Fisher is inconsistent with his footwork. It's genuinely odd. He'll go 3-4 snaps in a row where you're thinking, "dang, this guy just can't be beat," then he'll have a couple of snaps where he looks completely off balance and clumsy moving laterally.

During the Denver game, Fisher had snaps where he just looked completely lost in pass pro. And before you say something about Demarcus Ware and Von Miller being great (and they are), this wasn't a beaten by talent issue. It was a legit "looks clumsy and slow" issue. I couldn't figure out what was going on that game as Fisher either got beat or BARELY managed to get a neutral grade in pass pro snap after snap.

That Denver game was far and away Fisher's worst game, but the inconsistency issues plagued him in every game. Fisher was able to avoid collecting too many losses despite this, but he definitely had a lot more borderline neutral plays where his natural athleticism saved a loss.

Compounding the footwork issue (again, it wasn't too often, but just enough to concern me) was Fisher's most troubling habit: letting defenders get into his body.

Yes, I'm aware that it's Khalil Mack shoving Fisher into Smith's lap here. But I promise you, there were very similar snaps to this one against far inferior players to Mack. I use this play to demonstrate Fisher's most concerning habit. He tends to try and use his body rather than his hands to make blocks.

I don't know if Fisher struggled with injuries or whatever, but at times he barely seemed inclined to use his hands when blocking, instead throwing his body into defenders. This is true as both a pass blocker and a run blocker, but Fisher is so athletic that it rarely made a difference in run blocking (though Malik Jackson abused him a few times in that situation). In pass protection, though, that was his most fatal mistake.

In the NFL, you simply can't let defenders get inside your pads. They're too strong and too fast, and even smaller edge rushers will overpower you if you're not fighting them off with a punch. Fisher fell victim to some VERY quick losses because of this issue, and it led to more sacks / hits / pressures than I'm comfortable with my left tackle giving up.

And therein lies the dilemma I'm facing with Fisher as a pass blocker. His loss percentage is actually pretty good, so it's not like he was torpedoing a half dozen plays a game. BUT... the nature of those losses tended to be very, very bad. It's an unfortunate truth that any stat, no matter how detailed, is going to create problems with definition. At this point, a two second loss is graded the same as a half second loss, even though they have very different impact on the play.

I call this "the LDT issue." LDT has a lot of good qualities, but his losses are almost always really, really bad. Like, immediately beaten kind of bad. There's a difference between a loss that hurts a play and a loss that dooms it. Fisher's losses, much like LDT's, are all too often the latter.

Of course, I don't lump Fisher into LDT's camp because the frequency of those losses is much, much lower. But it is still a concern. I wouldn't rate Fisher as a great overall LT at this point, because he's simply not consistent enough in pass protection.

Now, perhaps the hand-fighting and footwork will continue to improve (as it most certainly has over the last few years). If so, Fisher could easily take the step from pretty good LT who is a very good run blocker to very good overall LT.

As is, though, he's a good but flawed left tackle who bears the overwhelming scrutiny of a guy taken first overall who is making a great deal of money. So whether you're in the Eric Fisher is really good camp or the Eric Fisher is mediocre camp, you've got some ammo either way. You're welcome.

With the offensive linemen out of the way, it's likely time for me to turn my attention to ol' what's his name who throws passes. Should be a hoot and a half.