One of the best parts of Week 1 in any NFL season is the chance to see your team's first round draft pick get some playing time, so you can finally get a real idea of how they might play going forward. Unfortunately, the Bengals first round pick of 2015, Cedric Ogbuehi, is currently sitting on the PUP list while he recovers from an ACL injury suffered in his final collegiate game at Texas A&M. Luckily, the Bengals drafted another offensive tackle with first-round talent this year: Jake Fisher.
Unless you want to make the argument that either Andrew Whitworth or Andre Smith are expected to be replaced this season, it's pretty clear that the Bengals drafted Ogbuehi and Fisher for the future. With Ogbuehi, it's pretty easy to put his career on hold because of the injury. But, with Fisher, you'd think the Bengals would want to start to develop him as soon as possible, right?
That seems to be the Bengals' mindset as they did whatever they could to throw Jake Fisher in as an extra offensive lineman (technically an eligible receiver) on a few plays here and there against the Raiders. What we saw was a promising display from a rookie who struggled to adjust in the preseason, but seems ready to contribute in a limited role.
First Quarter 9:27; Run Block
Jake Fisher's first ever play for the Cincinnati Bengals displayed just about everything that the Bengals figured they were going to get when they made the decision to take Fisher 53rd overall in the 2015 draft: size, talent, athleticism, versatility.
Before the play, you'll see Fisher (reported in as an eligible receiver) motioned to the left side of the field to pick up a block on Raiders' outside linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong. Fisher handles Armstrong about as well as you would hope from such a highly valued offensive tackle; laying down a key block alongside Ryan Hewitt to open up a respectable running lane for Jeremy Hill who carries the rock six yards deeper into the endzone. Here you're really seeing Fisher's athleticism and mental discipline come into play - most offensive linemen aren't used to having to get set and pick up their blocker on the go, but it's not a problem for him.
This play eventually lead to the Bengals' first touchdown of the game, which lead to an avalanche of points for the Bengals that resulted in a 33-13 blowout victory. Without that key block from Fisher, there's a chance the Bengals would have had their drive slowed down and that they would have had to settle for a field goal, providing much less momentum and potentially a bit of a spark for the Raiders. Is Jake Fisher single handedly responsible for sparking the Bengals' blowout victory? Absolutely not. But he certainly helped to prepare that spark.
First Quarter 3:31; Tackle Eligible Play
What we've got here is a boring batted pass attempt from Andy Dalton to Mohamed Sanu. Why are we paying attention to this play? Notice that receiver at the top of the screen who is about twice the size of the other receivers? That's Jake Fisher out there setting up a fake screen to Tyler Eifert.
As you can see near the end of that play, it almost worked; allowing Mohamed Sanu to make a wide open catch for a first down and (maybe) more. The biggest problem with this play is that the Raiders were able to get enough penetration on the play to bat the ball down and prevent what could have otherwise been total disaster. But Fisher? He's out there displaying his versatility. Maybe, just maybe, we will see Fisher pull an Anthony Munoz some day and catch a touchdown on a tackle-eligible play. If not, his ability to block anywhere at any time in any situation should also be extremely useful.
Third Quarter 6:59; Tackle Eligible Play
If you're like me, you were probably itching to see what that tackle-eligible play could have looked like if it had worked out. Well, it wasn't on the most critical part of a drive, but this eight yard catch for a first down at the beginning of the drive is a good indication of what the kind of play-calling comes from having an ultra versatile lineman.
With Fisher out to the side making a great block and selling the screen (and the offensive line actually keeping the pass rush at bay this time), Andy Dalton is able to complete the eight yard pass to A.J. Green for a first down that continues a drive which ended in the final touchdown of the afternoon for the Bengals. So what is Fisher doing on this play that's so great? He's out there selling the play. You can see the middle of the Raiders' defense open up for Green as they're expecting a screen pass, largely because Fisher is out there blocking like he's directly responsible for the ball carrier.
Is Jake Fisher ready to take over as a starting left or right tackle? Probably not. But, his versatility and athleticism provide Hue Jackson with so many subtle opportunities to change plays up, that it's really hard not to get excited about the prospect of him getting more playing time.
However, it is clear that he still could use some work on taking certain angles on blocks, especially on those screen plays. Fisher did a great job of adjusting to his block on Armstrong when blocking for Jeremy Hill, but you can tell that neither of those screen passes would have been terribly successful had the ball actually been thrown out wide. Yes, it's great that Fisher can sell the block, but it would also help if the team could rely on him to throw down a block on a screen pass, which would actually help to create a successful screen.
Fisher is not ready to start, but he is certainly an exciting prospect to watch for the future.