Bye Week Review: Eric Fisher's Development Helping Chiefs

One of the biggest storylines surrounding the Kansas City Chiefs coming into the season was regarding the offensive line.

At the end of training camp, it was supposedly set.

Eric Fisher had moved over to his natural position of left tackle; Jeff Allen was slotted to play left guard; Rodney Hudson, the leader, was back at center; Zach Fulton, the rookie sixth-round pick, was at right guard; Donald Stephenson was at right tackle.

But soon, things would shake up that plan for the offensive line.

Stephenson was suspended for the first four games of the season, and then in Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans, Jeff Allen, who had been playing right tackle because of Stephenson's suspension, was lost for the season with an elbow injury.

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Veteran Mike McGlynn, who was signed just days prior before the final preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, stepped in to play left guard when Allen had moved over. Then it was veteran Ryan Harris, who came to Kansas City just this past offseason, who stepped into the starting right tackle position. 

It was a game of musical chairs but nobody was singing the praises of a group that already had question-marks coming into the season. And now the picture was even murkier of what this group, who lacked any kind of continuity, could do when the regular season began.

Each week, the story was the same: these guys just needed time to "gel" with one another. No two players along the offensive line had any experience playing next to the guy on either side of them.

What we saw transpire over the last three games was a group of teammates who developed some continuity, got used to one another and found some success against some significant opponents.

Against the San Francisco 49ers, the Chiefs offensive line matched the physicality of one of the best front sevens in all of football.

The 49ers boasted the NFL's No. 2 rushing defense, allowing just 3.5 yards per carry in their first four games. The Chiefs went on the road and averaged 4.7 yards per carry against that 49ers defense.

Going into that game, the Chiefs had surrendered 13 sacks through four games, but didn't allow a single sack against the 49ers.

Much of this development and improvement has been because of the play of left tackle Eric Fisher, who seems to be putting everything together in his second season.

"Well Eric's gotten better every week that he's been here," offensive line coach Andy Heck said. "I think he's becoming more and more comfortable with our concepts and what his assignments are so he's cutting it loose and playing a little more confidently. When he does that, you can see his athleticism shine through.

"He has fantastic feet. He's got great bend. So you know, his body, at times, can get into really awkward positions but he's able to recover and still go make a play."

View photos of the Chiefs Offensive Line

Offensive coordinator Doug Pederson echoes what Heck said about Fisher's development, but also pointed to their coaching in helping him come along.

"He's done a nice job," Pederson said of Fisher. "He's really taken what coach (Andy) Heck and coach (Eugene) Chung have taught him in practice. He's taken it not only to practice, but to games. He's trusting his own ability and he's believing in his own talent."

The Chiefs recently got Donald Stephenson back from suspension and he'll fit in through the final 11 games of the season as well.

"We had him available to us as a swing tackle last week," Heck said of Stephenson. "It's good to have him back in the mix. He's a good football player. He's part of our group. And the way we approach it in the O-Line is 'all hands on deck.' We're going to need everybody before it's all said and done. So right now Ryan (Harris) is doing a nice job in there and we have some good continuity going in there on the offensive line. Getting [Stephenson] back in the mix, we'll just see how it goes."

Finally, center Rodney Hudson is the leader of the group, and his ability to communicate to everyone along the offensive line has been a key determining factor in their improvement as a group. 

"It starts with Rodney (Hudson)," Pederson said. "Communication starts there and it just works itself out to the two tackles. They've really gelled as a group. They'll just continue to get better and then with the addition of Donald Stephenson coming back, now [it] gives you a little more depth at guard-tackle and gives you a chance for a little more flexibility in that you can rotate guys at different positions and keep those guys fresh."

The offensive line continuing to develop will be one of the biggest keys for the Chiefs down the stretch and in these final 11 regular season games.

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