KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Last season’s No. 1 overall pick of the NFL Draft is under the microscope.
The attention isn’t because Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher has moved from right tackle to his natural position.
Instead, the spotlight falls on Fisher’s recent preseason performances.
He allowed a sack in the first contest against the Cincinnati Bengals and drew a holding penalty during Sunday night’s game against the Carolina Panthers. Fisher also appeared to get manhandled by Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy on more than one occasion.
Despite the miscues, the Chiefs aren’t abandoning ship just two games into the preseason.
“Eric Fisher has done a great job,” offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said Tuesday. “He’s battling through it. It’s that part of camp now where everybody is a little bit tired and fatigued, but he’s fighting through it, he’s in a good spot. He still has to work on his fundamentals and details just like everyone else, but he is in a good position right now.”
Pederson said Fisher, who had offseason shoulder surgery and a sport hernia procedure, is healthy.
And the offensive coordinator said a potential reason for Fisher’s early struggles could be attributed to acclimating after playing right tackle in 2013.
“He’s getting used to the left side over there,” Pederson said, “and then just coming back and battling back from that injury he had, and just focusing in and understanding what he needs to do to get better as a professional and just continue to detail his work.”
Meanwhile, Fisher was limited throughout organized team activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp. He practiced fully in training camp, but didn’t participate in one-on-one drills against defensive linemen until the latter part of camp.
Fisher is apparently still adjusting to the live action, and coach Andy Reid said Monday that Fisher may not be shooting his arm as fast as the game progresses.
“I’m not even sure he’s conscious of that,” Reid said. “You see that when players are coming off of knees. It’s the same thing. As the game goes on, they don’t play on it quite as well as they do early in the games. So, you work through it the more you play and the more you keep fundamentals, the more consistent you become.”
For his part, the 6-7, 315-pound left tackle won’t hide behind the surgery as a reason for his recent play.
“I’m not out here using that as an excuse,” Fisher said. “I’m out here working. When I have the strength, I feel like I’m using that. Obviously after a major surgery your body will get fatigued. It was a long rehab. I stayed on top of everything, did everything I could. Right now it’s just a rebuilding process, getting through the tail end of it here.”
Fisher said he works hard during individual drills and on the practice field, adding there are things he does off the field in an attempt to improve.
Some of the areas Fishers said he does on his own are watching film and lifting weights. Fisher said he hasn’t been limited while lifting weights “for quite a few months now,” which coincides with his return to the practice field for OTAs.
When it comes to technique, an area opposing defensive ends exploited in two straight preseason games, Fisher understands it requires constant improvement.
“It’s a never ending battle,” he said. “I don’t care who you are. You can be an All-Pro, Pro Bowl, you always have things to work on. Always.”
After playing right tackle in 2013, Fisher said the two preseason games have eased the transition to his natural left tackle position and game speed isn’t a factor.
“It’s actually slowed down quite a bit,” he said. “I’m going from first year to second year, everything has slowed down major. It’s just amazing knowing the offense. When you know the offense, you know what you’re doing, you play fast and that’s what I really enjoyed about this year.”
In the meantime, the Chiefs will ride it out with Fisher short of swapping right tackle Donald Stephenson and Fisher at the tackle positions.
And it’s not like the team has much choice given the unknown behind Fisher and Stephenson. The Chiefs haven’t settled on a swing tackle and are currently looking at Ryan Harris, J’Marcus Webb, Jeff Linkenbach and Ryan McKee.
Of course, the good news is there’s time for Fisher to address problems before the start of the regular season.
And the coaching staff has confidence in Fisher despite the first two preseason games.
More importantly, Pederson said the staff, including offensive line coach Andy Heck, will ensure Fisher receives encouragement to prevent a decline in confidence.
“We’re positive with all of the guys,” Pederson said. “That’s something that as a coach is part of your job. Not only coaching the offense, defense, special teams, but keeping these guys going, motivating them, keeping them in the game, keeping them involved, and saying, ‘Hey you’re the guy and we’re going with you,’ and keep his confidence level high.”
NOTES: Defensive end Mike DeVito (hand), defensive end Mike Catapano (illness), defensive lineman Kona Schwenke (shoulder), linebacker Josh Mauga (groin) and cornerback Damond Smith (abductor) returned to practice … DeVito’s left hand is wrapped in a cast almost to his elbow … Running back Jamaal Charles (foot), wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (quad), wide receiver Junior Hemingway (hip), strong safety Eric Berry (heel), linebacker Joe Mays (wrist), linebacker Josh Martin (quad), defensive lineman Jermelle Cudjo (hamstring), offensive tackle Ryan McKee (knee) did not practice … Cornerbacks Marcus Cooper and Sean Smith got the first shot with the first-team defense during 11-on-11 drills … Second-year inside linebacker Nico Johnson ran with the first-team defense in place of Mays.