Players who must improve: OT Eric Fisher

Here we’ll begin a series that looks at five young Kansas City Chiefs players who need to make progress from where they were in 2013. Forget for a moment about the Chiefs getting help from free-agent or draft additions. If these players come through, the Chiefs will be in good shape in 2014.

We’ll begin with offensive tackle Eric Fisher. The Chiefs drafted Fisher with the No. 1 overall pick last season and though he started 13 games on the right side, his rookie season was, even in charitable terms, rough. Fisher at times played so poorly he deserved to be benched. He didn’t have the necessary strength in his upper body to handle big and physical opponents, who frequently manhandled Fisher.

Still, the Chiefs gave him a promotion of sorts. After losing left tackle Branden Albert to the Miami Dolphins in free agency, the Chiefs moved Fisher into Albert’s spot, giving him the all-important job of protecting quarterback Alex Smith’s blind side.

How quickly Fisher can play like Albert, a Pro Bowler last season, will help determine the fate of the Chiefs’ season. Little of what Fisher accomplished last year suggests he is ready for the challenge, at least right away.

But it’s still wise to believe Fisher could eventually become equal to the player Albert is now, or even better. He showed last season the tremendous athleticism that led the Chiefs to rate him as the draft’s best player.

Heading into the offseason, it was Fisher’s goal to get bigger and stronger so he could better battle the more physical opponents he will face. The trouble is that he had two offseason surgeries, one to repair a balky shoulder and the other for a sports hernia, that set back the weight he could handle with his upper-body workouts.

Offseason practice recently started and Fisher was only participating in individual drills. The Chiefs have said they believe he will be ready for full participation when they put on the pads and begin training camp in July.

Fisher, who played last season between 295 and 300 pounds, said recently he plans to be 15 to 20 pounds heavier this year. He could easily get there, but being limited in the weight room for much of the offseason won’t make it easier for him.

Fisher also needs to play through some of the nagging injuries that put him out of the lineup last season. He missed regular-season starts once because of the injured shoulder and another time because of a mild concussion.

He then missed the playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts because of an injured groin.