NFL teams have only so much money and draft picks with which to build a team, so making good decisions is paramount. In part 3 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. Part 2 explored Fisher’s play strength and pass blocking struggles. In Part 4, Joeckel’s pass blocking and run game performance is broken down.
In the run game, Fisher exhibits a lack of strength and a general lack of awareness. He is not without ability, but if he is strong enough, then apparently he lacks the aggression to compete at this level.
Here, Kansas City is running an outside zone play. Fisher is covered by the defensive end playing 5 technique, and should be aiming for the outside shoulder of the end: If the rusher comes inside, then the uncovered guard takes over the block and Fisher moves to the linebacker. If the end stays to the outside, Fisher stays on the block and the guard moves to the second level:
The end fights inside. The guard immediately recognizes and does a good job of taking a steep step to gain depth. This allows him to take over the block as the end comes inside.
Fisher is on the outside shoulder, but the problem is he can’t knock the end off the ball. The defender is not pushed: Fisher is just … there. It’s another example of his lack of strength, and perhaps a lack of aggression.
Fisher is blocking with flippers: His hands are on the defender’s chest, his arms are straight and his elbows are splayed out. There’s no power in this position. He needs to punch, and explode. Instead, he’s again just catching:
This is where awareness comes into play: Fisher aims for the defender, seemingly unmindful of the fact that his opponent can move. The linebacker reads the play and works toward the ball, sees Fisher coming, and sidesteps him with ease.
The tackle should be aiming at the outside shoulder because that is where the play is designed to go. If Fisher does his job, he seals the defender to the inside, where he cannot affect the play. Fisher instead aims for the numbers.
As a result of the linebacker moving to avoid him, Fisher is now only able to make contact with the inside shoulder, giving the defender outside advantage. The only way Fisher can seal off the linebacker is to deliver a thunderous punch at the point of contact:
Linval Joseph is really good. He makes the play before the linebacker can:
Ultimately, it appears that Fisher has one elite skill and many below-average traits. His footwork can get him to the outside shoulder, but he lacks the play strength to deliver a sufficiently forceful blow. He is deft at getting to the second level, but misses his aiming point and therefore cannot complete his assignment.
As If That Weren’t Enough
The last problem with Fisher is that there are too many plays where he doesn’t hit anyone because he doesn’t know the play call and his assignment. Too often he will come off the ball and just wander around aimlessly until the whistle blows.
On this next play, the Chiefs are running a counter to the weakside of the formation. It’s a play that middle schools across the country run, and one that Fisher has probably been a part of thousands of times.
Fisher has one simple job: Go to the second level and block the strong side linebacker, Chad Greenway (#52):
Instead, he takes one step inside and hinges. This is something you see on the backside of bootlegs and rollouts. The tackle almost always heads straight to the linebacker when he’s not pulling on the backside of a counter play.
Fisher has played 38 games and makes mistakes like this far too often. If he’s not down field too early on a screen, or going to the second level without finding his assignment, he gets lost.
Additionally, if you are an offensive lineman and you get lost, the goal should be to just go hit somebody – anybody, it doesn’t matter. There are too many plays when Fisher doesn’t even touch a defender.
Fisher possesses innate skills that can’t be taught: quickness and speed. Because of these skills, he will always be an interesting player, and will make you think that if he can just get stronger, if he could just fix his hand placement, if he just manages to learn the playbook better… That’s a lot of ifs, and it’s his third year in the NFL.
In Part 4, we will look at Joeckel’s pass blocking and performance in the run game.
Follow Matt on Twitter @Mbw987.