Many people regard The Phantom Menace as the worst of all seven of the Star Wars movies (I’d argue all three prequels are equally bad). Many people regard the Seattle Seahawks offensive line as the worst in the universe of the NFL. Those same people may also say that George Fant — rookie, undrafted free agent, very recently a basketball player with no legit football experience — as the worst player said offensive line. Don’t believe them, it’s a trap — The Fant-om Menace has his faults, but there’s also plenty to like.
Fant might be the worst starter on the Hawks offensive line (that would be up for debate between him, Garry Gilliam, and Bradley Sowell) but I refuse to believe that Fant is the worst offensive lineman in the NFL, especially after his performance against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
The George Fant watch continues this week and like past weeks, he has his ups and downs. Some plays he’ll struggle and some plays he’ll dominate. It’s maddening at times, but it’s all due to issues with his technique. He has all the tools physically and athletically. Now he just has to work on putting it all together, and doing it on every snap.
Against the Panthers he faced off against Charles Johnson, Star Lotulelei, Kawann Short, and Kony Ealy, a defense who is tied for second against the pass, eighth against the run and second in sacks. A team that has struggled all year and have been in a lot of close games, but one that still has a good defense, with the defensive line and linebackers as their strength. Definitely not an easy task, especially coming off of a disastrous performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
So how’d Fant do? He did well, enough at least for us to forget about his performance last week. Here’s a breakdown of every snap Fant had on Sunday:
Now the fun stuff!
Play 12: Thomas Rawls left tackle for 8 yards - TOUCHDOWN
This play shows Fant’s upside as a run blocker. He doesn’t have position, but he’s still able to lock on to the defender and keeps driving the defender and eventually gets him on the ground. If he can block like that without getting in proper position, imagine what he can do when he does.
Play 16: Pass short right to Tyler Lockett for 8 yards
Fant’s kick slide is just so smooth and effortless. He easily shows off his athleticism here. He has had an issue with leaning forward too much but doesn’t here. Only technique issue is that he doesn’t use his length to his advantage and let’s the DE in too close to his body. Here its not a problem, as he locks on and stops the rush.
Play 25: Rawls right guard for 12 yards
This is my favorite play, even though Fant doesn’t block anyone. His assignment is to get to the second level but the linebacker shot a gap so there’s no one there to block. So what would Gilliam do? Usually stand around and look at the pile of bodies. What does Fant do? He goes hunting like a lion and sees a helpless little antelope down range that looks mighty tasty. So he charges. The antelope is able to use his agility to avoid the lion and escapes death.
You think Tom Cable and Pete Carroll loved watching this play? Having a 6’5” 296 lb offensive tackle that will run 15 yards down field to make a block probably makes Cable pantless.
Play 26: Rawls right tackle for 45 yards - TOUCHDOWN
There were a lot of good blocks on this play, but without Fant’s, it’s a tackle at the line of scrimmage for no gain. Just like in Rawls other touchdown run, Fant doesn’t have inside position, but he’s still able to lock on and the DT can’t get free.
Play 38: Pass short left to Doug Baldwin for 20 yards
Here Fant puts it all together. Kick slide, stance and length. Mirrors DE on the deep rush and rather than letting the DE get close to his body, Fant uses his length, keeping his arms extended. His kick slide is so good, that he doesn’t have to turn his hips, he’s able to stay in front of the DE the entire time. His basketball background comes in handy there as a defender staying in front of a point guard so they can’t drive by. One of the first times he’s had the entire package on one play.
Also, check out Jermaine Kearse’s big block.
Play 49: Pass short right to Lockett for -1 yards
Fant has been comical at cut blocking, but here it’s picture perfect.
Fant and the rest of the offensive line redeemed themselves this week. He showed tremendous growth with his technique, but again, his problem is consistency. As the game went on, he started being more consistent, but then dropped off and had a disappointing last series. This is reflected in his score, as he earned a Field Gulls Grade of 70%. When you take a closer look at his individual play grades, he had a win percentage of 84%! So 8 out of 10 plays, Fant does his job and when he does his job, 67% of the time he does it well.
Consistency is still an issue, but he’s also consistently getting better. I just can’t stress enough at how far along Fant is in his development after only starting six games in his entire life at left tackle, it’s amazing.
- I guarantee that Tom Cable loves George Fant. How many times do you see an offensive tackle running 15 yards down field (while the play is still 10 yards behind him) to seek out and hunt down the one lone safety in his way. Gilliam never did this and that’s why he was a healthy inactive this week (has Rees Odhiambo passed him on the depth chart?), and its because this kind of physical mentality that the coaches will put up with Fant’s growing pains.
- The athleticism and physicality are there and its very encouraging to watch his growth throughout the season. However, Fant’s biggest issues are still his technique. The two problems are that he doesn’t use his length in pass pro by letting defenders get into his body, along with leaning too far forward or lunging at the point of attack. He showed improvement with both this game, but still struggles to put them all together at once. But I think we’re asking too much for him to be perfect when he’s only played in six games throughout his entire football career at left tackle. He’ll get there, but I don’t think its going to be this year. Which brings me to:
- As long as Justin Britt is in the lineup, we can get by with Fant’s inconsistency at left tackle. The line is so much better with Britt. The most notable difference between this week and last: with Britt playing, the line was picking stunts up with ease. They pretty much missed everyone last week. Nothing against Joey Hunt (he’s a rookie 6th round draft pick with one start) when he played, they are just offensive lineman. But when Britt is in the lineup, they are an offensive line. One unit, all working together, not working independently. Expect a four year contract extension this offseason for Britt in the range of $6-7M average per year.
- Fant and Germain Ifedi have a few things in common that jumps out every time I watch film. They are both large men that are freakishly athletic, and when they lock on to a defender, that defender is done for the play. When they do things right and get their hands inside a defenders pads, they control the defender and they aren’t allowed to disengage. They both show that they can physically dominate their opponents. Now it’s just getting their technique consistent to get them in position more often to be able to dominate.
- Pod races.