NFL teams have only so much money and draft picks with which to build a team, so making good decisions is paramount. In part 2 of his 2013 draft retrospective, Matt Weston looks deeper at the struggles of offensive tackle Eric Fisher.
Weston will look in depth at Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel, both in pass protection and the run game, breaking down the reasons for their struggles. Part 1 focused on reviewing the first round of the 2013 draft, focusing on Fisher and Joeckel in particular. In Part 3, Fisher in the running game will be assessed. In Part 4, Joeckel’s pass blocking and run game performance is broken down.
Watching Fisher, the first thing that stands out is his feet: He’s one of the quickest offensive tackles I have ever seen. At the combine he ran a 5.05-second 40 despite weighing 306 pounds, and posted the fastest 20-yard shuttle for an offensive lineman in his class. Speed is his greatest strength – the concern, then, becomes if is is the only aspect of of his game that is above-average.
Poor hand placement, in particular, is one reason why Fisher has accrued 15 penalties in his first two seasons.
It’s 1st and 20 after a holding penalty on KC center Mitch Morse. It’s an obvious passing down, and the Chiefs are operating out of the shotgun. Fisher (#72) is playing right tackle and matched up against Brian Robison (#96):
Fisher starts with a perfect kick-slide; it’s the same every time. He has natural quickness and he doesn’t have to over set or hurry against edge rushers. Right now he’s in perfect position. In two steps he’s already beaten Robison to the point of attack:
His technique remains perfect here. He’s squatting, his hands are low and close to his body, and his head is only a few inches in front of his feet; this is an image you would see in an offensive line textbook. Now, like a wildlife photographer, he just needs to be patient and wait for Robison to get close enough for him to make his punch:
But he doesn’t wait long enough; he gets antsy and attempts to punch, but Robison is too far away for him to make contact, leaving him out of position. Rather than continue to kick-slide in a smooth fashion, he briefly stops:
When he punches, his back is to the quarterback. He is high in his stance and leaning. Also look at his hand placement: His right arm is draped around Robison’s left shoulder, while his left arm is on Robison’s back. He doesn’t have any control in this position; he can’t grasp, sit, or mirror – because his hands are outside, the defender can continue to move and fight, and Fisher runs the risk of a holding penalty:
Fisher’s best, and only assets are footwork and quickness: Fisher is a dancer, not an offensive lineman.
In the passing game his feet often put him in the perfect position to succeed. He usually beats the defender to the spot and stays square against the edge rush. This is a rare thing to see in the NFL where offensive tackles have to play against 4.5 40 running defenders who are mere flashes across the screen.
But when contact is made, everything else falls apart.
Most edge rushes look like this one. Fisher kick-slides eloquently, delivers a weak punch, misses the chest, and holds on for dear life. Yet, because his feet are so good, he’s still able to act as a barrier between pass rushers and the quarterback, which is good enough for Smith and the Chiefs’ quick passing game. But it doesn’t make him a good player.
Defenders shouldn’t waste time trying to win around the edge: They should bullrush every time, just like Carlos Dunlap does on this play.
Fisher is in a three-point stance, lined up against the Minnesota Vikings Dunlap; on paper, he’s quick enough to handle anyone from this starting position.
Dunlap’s (DE #96) hand is just off the ground as Fisher takes his first step. This image is a good example of a pass set. For a right tackle, the right foot is the set foot and the left foot is the post foot; he steps or kicks with the set foot and slides with the post foot. This allows him to move in the direction of the defender while staying square and not taking false steps, all while maintaining strength to counter inside moves:
Dunlap cuts inside with a bullrush and Fisher is too slow with his hands. He should be extending his arms by now, but instead, they are still at his side. Dunlap is going to make contact first, which is bad news for an offensive lineman:
So, here we have a chronicle of Fisher’s lack of strength and poor use of of hands and what that leads to. Time and again, it’s the same thing ‒ even against an inside move: Great feet and pass set that beats the rusher to the spot, then awful punch bordering on nonexistent, and terrible hand placement that results in grabbing and holding:
Fisher isn’t a good offensive lineman, but he should be – seems like it anyway: His play speed, footwork, and agility are so good that he can get in front of any rusher.
And yet, he’s not nearly strong enough, especially in the upper body. He cannot jar defenders when he punches. He knows this and this is why he lets defenders run into him, and he just holds on. At the end of the day, he can get to the right place, but he simply does not have the strength to get the job done.
Fisher’s problems as a pass protector all lead back to his lack of strength. He is quick enough to block but he is not strong enough to hold his ground, to push back against competition, or to keep himself from being knocked off balance.
In Part 3, we will look at Fisher’s performance in the run game.
Follow Matt on Twitter @Mbw987.