September 8, 2013

Chiefs’ Eric Fisher wins first battle of the tackles

The opening round in the battle of first-round draft picks went to the Chiefs’ offensive tackle Eric Fisher.

The opening round in the battle of first-round draft picks went to Chiefs’ offensive tackle Eric Fisher.

Fisher, the first overall pick in the 2013 draft, wasn’t perfect in his first NFL regular-season start on Sunday, but the Chiefs had a productive game running the football and protecting quarterback Alex Smith in their 28-2 season-opening win over Jacksonville.

The Chiefs averaged a respectable 4.3 yards rushing, and Smith was hurried four times but sacked just once, for a two-yard loss by Jacksonville’s Jason Babin in the fourth quarter when the game was already in hand.

Meanwhile, Jacksonville right tackle Luke Joeckel, the second overall pick in the draft, took his lumps. The Chiefs sacked Blaine Gabbert six times, and though not all were Joeckel’s responsibility, the man who lined up against him the most, outside linebacker Justin Houston, had three sacks.

Fisher was not the only new starter in the Chiefs offensive line. Veteran Geoff Schwartz, who was signed as a free agent during the off-season, started next to Fisher at right guard in place of starter Jon Asamoah, who was out with a calf injury.

“I thought he did great,” Schwartz said of Fisher. “It’s hard to tell in the run phase of it, because I can’t see every play on the Jumbotron … and I’m watching myself … but as far as pass protecting, I thought he did a great job.

“He knew when his help was coming. There were times when he had me coming to ( double team) and I saw him locking up Babin. I thought he played well. A little early he might have been a little nervous … but he did a great job.”

Fisher had already left the locker room and was unavailable for comment. But coach Andy Reid said after Fisher got beat on a bull-rush by the Jaguars early in the game, “from then on, he settled in and played good, tough, solid football.. That’s what we expect from him.”

Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley defended Joeckel, who, in fairness had a more difficult time pass blocking when the Chiefs knew the Jaguars had to pass after falling behind in the game.

“Things happen where you get out of whack in the offensive line,” Bradley said. “It might be where Luke saw Tamba Hali and said, ‘Now, I’ve got to do this to stop him,’ and it’s, no, you just have to do what you do. Just stay true to what you’ve been practicing and sometimes when they try too hard, they get out of their technique and out of their fundamentals.”

It didn’t surprise Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman to see Fisher, in his first start, and Schwartz, in the 20th career start of his five-year career, hold down the right side of the line.

“All camp, they were battling against Pro Bowlers,” Sherman said of Houston and Hali. “So going against great competitors like that definitely helped.”

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