The Cincinnati Bengals are undergoing a dramatic overhaul along the offensive line. The hope is that 2015 second round draft pick Jake Fisher makes this much easier to do by locking down the right tackle position, a spot he’s all but assured of winning and keeping this year.
Fisher has been a backup for the better part of his first two years in Cincinnati and was thrust into the right tackle job for the final three games of 2016. The results weren’t great—he allowed 13 pressures in just 300 snaps—but he was thrown into the job toward the end of the season. Now, he’s had the entire year so far knowing he’s the anticipated starter and will receive starter practice snaps through training camp. Can he rise to the challenge in 2017? The Bengals are clearly relying on him to make a positive impact.
Weight: 305 pounds
Position: Offensive tackle
Hometown: Traverse City, Mich.
Experience: Third-year player
Fisher is entering year three of his four-year rookie deal. In 2017, Fisher will earn a base salary of $772,229 and a workout bonus of $50,000. He will have a cap hit of $1,161,687 and a dead cap value of $678,917, according to Spotrac. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2019.
As mentioned above, the Bengals will have revamped offensive line in 2017, which began in the 2015 draft when the team took not one, but two offensive tackles in the first two rounds. The second came in the form of Oregon All-American tackle Jake Fisher in Round 2.
But with Andre Smith and Andrew Whitworth both locking down the tackle spots in 2015, Fisher rarely saw the field other than as an extra blocker who occasionally ran routes. He ended up getting some snaps at right tackle and as a swing lineman in big formations while also catching one pass for 31 yards against the San Diego Chargers in Week 2. That catch made the Bengals believe they should keep throwing to him, including in the red zone. He was targeted five times on the year, but only made that one catch.
All of this came before an injury to Ryan Hewitt forced Fisher to move to h-back in Week 17 and in the wild card loss to Pittsburgh. Though it was a limited sample size, Fisher did well as a lead blocker coming out of the backfield.
Fisher would stick to the offensive line in 2016 while working at multiple spots, including center during offseason workouts. However, a knee injury in the preseason led to Fisher being sidelined right up until the regular season began. That helped keep him behind the eight ball for the first half of the regular season, but as the season wore on, Fisher eventually became the starting right tackle.
That’s the job Fisher is expected to keep in 2017 while fellow 2015 draftee Cedric Ogbuehi sticks to left tackle. However, it’s no certainty that Fisher is the long-term solution at either tackle spot.
While he did good in spurts, Fisher still finished 2016 with a 43.5 Pro Football Focus grade. That would have ranked 65th among offensive tackles had he played enough snaps to qualify for the ranking. That grade also puts Fisher in PFF’s ‘poor’ tier of players, the lowest of them all.
Even so, Fisher showed flashes of being a quality starter, enough to impress the Bengals’ coaches after his start against the Steelers late last year. The hope is he’ll continue to grow and become a reliable starter for an offensive line that doesn’t have enough reliable starters heading into the 2017 season.
Fisher will open training camp and likely the regular season as the starter at right tackle, though if he struggles, veteran Eric Winston will be waiting in the wings to take over.
There’s really no doubt whatsoever as to Fisher making the final roster. He would have to commit a pretty awful crime or have a career-ending injury to not make the 53-man roster.
The Bengals absolutely loved getting Fisher where they did in the 2015 draft, and the coaches are confident he’s going to become a quality starter in 2017 and for many years to come.
Odds: 99.9 percent.