Fisher's progress key in short, long term

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Eric Fisher's three best games of his rookie season have come in the last four, according to the grades assigned by Pro Football Focus. The Kansas City Chiefs have taken note of Fisher's recent play and this trend could have an impact on their decision-making process at offensive tackle beyond the rest of this season.

The first pick in this year's draft, Fisher's play early in the season was frequently so bad the Chiefs had to be tempted at times to get him out of their lineup, for his safety as well as that of quarterback Alex Smith. But other than in the Nov. 17 game against the Broncos in Denver, Fisher has played better and graded higher of late.

He still needs to get much stronger, something a year in the Chiefs' weight program should fix. But Fisher's athletic skills stand out, as he showed on Jamaal Charles' 5-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter of last week's win in Washington. Fisher got down the field quickly on the screen pass to throw the key block on Redskins linebacker Perry Riley.

"He did that well," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "He’s long and he can run. He got out there and was able to block (a linebacker). You feel comfortable with him getting up on linebackers."

Fisher made a similarly athletic move on Kansas City's first play of the game. He was able to get out and take out Washington defensive end Kedric Golston to spring Charles for an 8-yard carry.

Fisher will finish the season where he started it, at right tackle. The Chiefs have had ample opportunity to shift him to the left side and could have done so against Washington with Branden Albert out of the lineup because of a knee injury. For now, the Chiefs are content to use backup Donald Stephenson as their left tackle in those situations.

Longer term, Fisher is a left tackle. The improvement in Fisher's play would allow the Chiefs to move him to left tackle next season and use Stephenson on the right side.

The Chiefs can feel more comfortable in letting Albert leave as a free agent, if that's what they choose to do. Albert is playing this season on a one-year contract worth almost $10 million and the Chiefs will be better off next season letting him go.