Chiefs in dire need of Fisher fulfilling No. 1 billing
The Sports Xchange
NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - INSIDE SLANT
Andy Reid's team entered training camp. With three new starters, including the always important left tackle spot, and a very young group trying to fill the holes, the preseason schedule was going to be very important for the long-term health of running back Jamaal Charles and quarterback Alex Smith.
An opening game 41-39 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday gave Reid and his coaching staff a mixed bag to evaluate as the team returned to its training camp site at Missouri Western State University.
The No. 1 group saw action in the first quarter for just 10 plays that produced only 28 yards with one first down courtesy of a Bengals penalty. Smith was sacked and lost the ball on a fumble when he was hit by defensive end Robert Geathers. Left tackle Eric Fisher had the blocking assignment for Geathers.
But Reid was quick to provide some cover for last year's NFL No. 1 overall draft choice.
"We should have dropped deeper on that play," Reid said. "It was a three-step drop play and you can't hold it forever. You have to secure the ball as a quarterback; you have to hang onto it and go somewhere else ... I really don't blame Eric on that particularly play."
In fact, Reid liked how aggressively Fisher played in his first game after offseason surgery on his shoulder and a sports hernia. It has limited the practice time for Fisher, especially in pass protection drills.
"He played physical; on the first play he took that defensive end and knocked him right on his back," Reid said. "He kept that aggressive play all the way through. Was it all clean? No, we need to work some stuff."
At right guard, sixth-round draft choice Zach Fulton got the start and solidified his hold on the starting job there. "He did a nice job maintaining his blocks," said Reid. "He was able to sustain his blocks on the second level against linebackers. There are a couple of things that he's going to have to work on but for the most part he played a good, physical game."
Center Rodney Hudson, left guard Jeff Allen and right tackle Donald Stephenson round out the current starting group of blockers with Fisher and Fulton. That's a rookie, a second-year player, a pair of third-year blockers and a center in his fourth season. It's one of the youngest lines in the NFL, with an average age of 23.8 years.
Smith said his protection was good and that the offensive line took another step forward toward gaining that cohesion so necessary for offensive efficiency and production.
"I'm not out there thinking about the offensive line," Smith said. "Certainly we have some new faces; we're young. You have to trust those guys that they're going to do their job. It's always going to be a little bit by committee there. That's the nature of the game over 16 weeks. You've got to have more than five guys that can play."
The Chiefs' No. 2 offensive line against Cincinnati was an older group with Ryan Harris (29) and Ryan McKee (27) at the tackles, Ricky Henry (27) and Rishaw Johnson (25) at the guards and Eric Kush (24) as the center. Jeff Linkenbach (27) got some work with that group at tackle.
With a long wait until their second preseason game on Aug. 17 against the Carolina Panthers, Reid hopes for more growth from his blockers.
"We are going to take this time and keep going, trying to get better as a team," said Reid. "There's a lot of room to continue to improve. We look forward to getting better."
NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - NOTES, QUOTES
--Rookie running back De'Anthony Thomas made quite a splash in his first chance to play in an NFL game. The fourth-round choice out of the University of Oregon provided the biggest play of the first preseason game, returning a punt 80 yards for a first-quarter touchdown against Cincinnati. He scored even though the moment he caught the ball he was hit by Bengals cover man Dre Kirkpatrick.
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