KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs settled on a starting offensive line for the season opener against the Houston Texans and it comes with surprises.
Donald Stephenson starts at left tackle, while Eric Fisher, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft, moves from the left side to start at right tackle.
“Donald has taken a bunch of reps there, so I left him there and put Fish(er) back on the right side,” coach Andy Reid said. “He’s played it. I think we got the five best guys. Larry (Laurent Duvernay-Tardif) is at the right guard, (Ben) Grubbs and (rookie) Mitch (Morse) are holding down the left guard and the center position.”
The 6-7, 315-pound Fisher last played right tackle during his rookie season, appearing in 14 games with 13 starts. He started all 16 games at left tackle in 2014.
Reid said Fisher, who has been dealing with a high-ankle sprain suffered in training camp, practiced Sunday and offers versatility.
“Fish gives me a whole lot of flexibility,” Reid said. “I think he can play really any position on the offensive line and play it at a Pro Bowl-caliber level.”
Reid adds Fisher took the move in stride.
“He’s going to do what’s best for the team and let’s roll,” Reid said. “That’s his attitude. He’s glad to be healthy again or at least on track to play again. He was fired up about that, getting back in and that’s how he approached it.”
Stephenson, who joined the Chiefs in 2012 as a third-round pick out of Oklahoma, has appeared in 44 games with 14 starts, including four at left tackle in 2013.
The 6-6, 312-pound Stephenson projected as the starting right tackle in 2014 before serving a four-game suspension to start the season, and then saw most of his playing time limited to special teams.
Stephenson, who enters the final year of his contract, moved from right tackle to left tackle in training camp after Fisher suffered the ankle injury on Aug. 17.
And Stephenson’s comfort level, which included starts in two preseason game, proved enough for Reid to make the switch.
“Donald has got a ton of reps over there,” Reid said. “So, I just said, listen, let’s just leave him there. He looks like he’s comfortable with that. I think he’s actually probably more comfortable there than he was with the right tackle. I thought he had some ups and down at that right tackle spot. Left tackle, he seems to be more comfortable.”
The moves at the tackle positions were apparently made with the guard positions in mind.
Reid said Stephenson and Grubbs have developed a relationship, while having Fisher next to Duvernay-Tardif will help stabilize the right side of the offensive line.
“Fish, he and Grubbs are the seasoned veterans there,” Reid said. “So, I think it works out the way it’s set up right here, I think it works out perfect. I feel very comfortable with that. I think Grubbs is tremendous for Donald and I think Fish is tremendous for Larry. That’s a good match there.”
The Chiefs will discover the effectiveness of the offensive line sooner than later when considering Houston Texans All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt and outside linebacker Jadaveon Clowney await in the season opener.
But Reid said the decision to go with the current starting five doesn’t take the first opponent as a primary factor.
“I don’t think you can do it off of one game,” Reid said. “That’s a tough question because they’re pretty good, I mean, I don’t want to slight that, but that’s not the reason. I was just trying to find the five best I felt comfortable with and I think this is going to be a good thing. It’s a subjective decision.”