A red-hot and much-improved George Fant will make his first start against Chandler Jones since allowing 4 sacks to the star rusher over 2 starts in Seattle.
After an excellent performance against the Broncos on Thursday night, George Fant’s Jets career is off to an impressive start that has the fanbase buzzing.
This afternoon, Fant will face his greatest test of the young season – Arizona’s Chandler Jones, who leads the NFL with 73.5 sacks since 2015.
Jones is a versatile rusher for the Cardinals, splitting his time between both edges rather than being tethered to one side. In 2019, Jones had nearly a 50-50 split, rushing off the defense’s left side on 52.8% of his rushes and off the right side on 47.2%. So far in 2020, Jones has been a bit more lopsided, rushing from the left 30.2% of the time and from the right 69.8% of the time.
So, Fant will not be battling with Jones on every snap, but he will see his fair share of snaps against the Arizona star – and you can bet that Fant is looking forward to a chance at vengeance.
Fant faced Jones and the Cardinals six times over his four-year stint with the Seahawks from 2016-19. He came off the bench as a rotational extra lineman in four of those, but started in the other two, one at right tackle in 2018 and one at left tackle in his 2016 rookie season. In each of those two starts, Jones beat Fant for two sacks.
Here is a look at the two sacks by Jones against Fant in 2018, with Fant starting at right tackle in front of Russell Wilson.
On the first sack (3rd & 3), Jones takes on Fant from a wide-9 alignment. Jones comes in at a patient speed and then flashes his outside hand in an attempt to get Fant to throw his punch. Fant bites, throwing his outside hand and then quickly pulling it back in. This leads to Fant opening up his hips to the outside and getting caught with his hands down, giving Jones the favorable window for a power rush that he was looking for. As soon as Fant pulls his hands in, Jones plants his back foot, lowers his shoulders, and charges into Fant. Jones blasts Fant back and defeats his hands in the process, deflecting them upwards, which allows him to pursue the quarterback and prevent Fant from clinging on. Jones brings down Wilson for the sack.
On 3rd & 6 just outside of Seattle’s end zone, Fant is left on an island against Jones from a wide-9. Fant throws a fake punch – a savvy move if used correctly – but Jones does not bite. After that fails, Fant opens hips up to the sideline, creating a massive lane to the inside. In addition to opening up, Fant brings his hands all the way down after the fake, and Jones takes advantage, throwing two hands into Fant’s exposed upper body and tossing him to the outside. Jones wins the inside and Fant tries to hang on, but Jones keeps his arm extended to fend him off. Jones finds his way to Wilson for a strip-sack that is recovered for an Arizona touchdown (called back due to a Cardinals penalty).
Despite the one-sided history between the pair, Fant is heading into this afternoon’s game playing the best football of his career, while Jones is off to the worst start of his career.
Fant has allowed a pressure rate of 4.0% this season, 19th-best out of 57 qualified tackles (67th percentile). That’s less than half his 2019 rate of 10.0%, which was fourth-worst out of 78 qualifiers (4th percentile).
Meanwhile, Jones has only one sack, the worst total he has posted through four games over his nine-year career (previous low was 2.5). He has only seven pressures, which is tied for 57th among edge rushers and is also his worst-ever total through four games.
Jones is on a stretch of three consecutive games without a sack or tackle for loss. He has only done that one other time in his career, which was back in Weeks 12-14 of 2015 as a member of the Patriots. Jones snapped that three-game skid with a two-sack game against the Titans, one of those being a strip-sack that was recovered for a New England touchdown.
While Fant comes in hot and Jones comes in cold, this battle is no cakewalk for the Jets’ improving right tackle. Jones may be slumping, but with an active streak of five straight seasons with 11-plus sacks (longest active and fifth-longest in NFL history), he is one of the game’s absolute best sack artists until proven otherwise – and he had Fant’s number in both of their previous meetings.
If Fant can defeat his greatest nemesis today, it will be a massive feather in his cap on the journey to proving his improved play is no fluke.