Things move pretty fast on Sundays, so Eric Fisher has come to realize there isn’t a ton of time for reflection on a play-by-play basis.
But that hasn’t stopped Fisher, the No. 1 overall pick in April’s NFL Draft, from making a quick mental check after bad plays, much like he did after he got beat for a sack in the Chiefs’ 23-17 win over the Browns on Sunday.
“You gotta ask yourself why it happened — you can’t really go watch film during the game and see why it happened,” said Fisher, who didn’t allow another sack against the Browns. “But usually, (offensive line) coach (Andy) Heck always has the answer, and you try not to use the technique you used on that play.”
That’s pretty much all he can do in the heat of battle, though Fisher — the Chiefs’ starting right tackle — has admittedly gone through this ritual a little more than he would have preferred this season.
It’s been a rough rookie year for the 6-foot-7, 306-pound Central Michigan grad, one in which he’s been beaten plenty and learned more.
“Coming out of the Mid-American Conference, it’s a whole new world,” Fisher said of his small-school roots. “I found that out in training camp with Justin (Houston) and Tamba (Hali).”
But while the Chiefs’ own sack masters gave Fisher an early dose of what it would be like to go from dominating in a non-BCS conference to facing the biggest, fastest and most aggressive athletes in the world on a weekly basis, the regular season has been more jolting.
According to Pro Football Focus, a site that grades every player on every play, through eight games Fisher has allowed team-highs in sacks (four) and quarterback hurries (19), the latter of which puts him in a tie for the 12th-most allowed amongst NFL tackles (despite the fact he missed one game with a concussion).
Even more revealing, perhaps, is Fisher’s overall grade of negative-17.9, which ranked 71st among 73rd eligible NFL tackles. By comparison, the Chiefs’ other offensive tackle, Branden Albert, ranks 26th in the league with a grade of plus-4.9. New England tackle Nate Solder currently ranks first with grade of plus-20.5.
“Hey man, I’m adjusting,” Fisher said. “Every week it’s getting better … everything is slowing down, everything is feeling more natural.”
Fisher said the move from left tackle, where he played his entire collegiate career, to right tackle has been more taxing than the physical jump to the NFL, though the physical component hasn’t been a piece of cake, either. Aside from the concussion that caused him to miss one game, he’s dealt with shoulder and thumb issues that have kept him from being 100 percent.
“Every defense is physical,” Fisher said. “At this level, you’re never gonna get a week off. There’s always gonna be someone across from you. They’re the best in the world, so you’ve gotta prepare for that.”
The good news is Fisher insists the Chiefs have been helping him do just that. When asked what his film sessions have been like, he said he’s received good feedback and instruction from the coaching staff.
“Anytime a rookie is in there starting, you know you’re gonna get coached for sure,” Fisher said. “You just take that coaching, make it a positive experience and learn from it. You go out there, make the corrections and move on.”
There have been plenty of corrections to make, but right guard Jon Asamoah, who plays next to Fisher every snap, said that’s to be expected of a rookie offensive lineman.
“Sometimes, some guys gotta get their feet under them,” said Asamoah, a fourth-year pro. “Once he gets confident in himself and ready to go, he’s going to be a great player. He has a lot of ability.”
Some of which manifests itself during games. While Pro Football Focus’ numbers say Fisher has struggled equally in the run and pass game, Fisher has had some memorable blocks in the running game and has shown good mobility when trying to get to the second level and block downfield.
These are areas where his impressive athleticism — which helped him get drafted first overall — naturally stand out, areas that should be complemented by the natural strength gains most rookie linemen make between their first and second seasons.
“There’s a reason he was the No. 1 pick of the draft,” said Asamoah, who added Fisher is always asking questions. “He’s grown exponentially from the first game to the last one. You’ll never notice it, but just his whole approach, everything (is better).”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid has praised Fisher in a similar way, essentially saying his effort is good while citing the need for him to continue working on his technique.
“It took longer than I would have liked to get adjusted,” Fisher said. “But hey, it’s feeling better every week.”
So even after a rough outing Sunday, in which he allowed a sack and three quarterback hurries, Fisher was all smiles. While he acknowledges the need to keep getting better, the Chiefs’ overall record (8-0) does plenty to take at least some of the sting out of his eye-opening rookie campaign.
“What a great experience,” Fisher said. “To start off my career like this is absolutely amazing.”
How the first 10 players selected in April’s NFL Draft are progressing this season:
1. Eric Fisher, OL, Chiefs
Gets beat sometimes, draws a few penalties … but he’s making strides.
2. Luke Joeckel, OL, Jaguars
The “other guy” Chiefs liked is out for year because of broken ankle.
3. Dion Jordan, DE, Dolphins
Injured shoulder now healed; some wonder why he’s not playing more.
4. Lane Johnson, OL, Eagles
Former Sooner is healthy, at least, and is starting to show signs of life.
5. Ziggy Ansah, DE, Lions
Won starting job and has three sacks but injured his ankle Sunday.
6. Barkevious Mingo, DE, Browns
Was active vs. Chiefs on Sunday with a sack, QB hurry, tackle.
7. Jonathan Cooper, OL, Cardinals
Broke leg in preseason and is rehabbing for return in 2014.
8. Tavon Austin, WR, Rams
First skills guy selected has 29 catches for 198 yards and two TDs.
9. Dee Milliner, CB, Jets
Benched during Sunday’s loss to Bengals. Couldn’t cover their wideouts.
10. Chance Warmack, OL, Titans
It has been slow going for Tennessee’s new starting right guard.