Even after the addition of Morgan Moses, George Fant can provide value to the New York Jets by lining up at tight end.
The Virginia product did not sign a lucrative deal. Although he agreed to a one-year, $3.6 million pact that can increase to $5.3 million based on playing time incentives, one would assume that the Jets brought Moses aboard with the idea of starting him. After all, he would represent an upgrade over incumbent starter George Fant on paper.
Moses started every regular season and playoff game for Washington from 2015-20 and is coming off of a career year that saw his 79.9 PFF grade rank sixth-best among right tackles. Fant had a shaky 2020 season in his first year with the Jets, earning a 61.6 overall grade that ranked 29th out of 36 right tackles.
If Moses takes Fant’s spot in the starting lineup, that would likely leave Fant in a backup role, as Fant’s lack of overall power (anchor in pass protection, movement creation in the run game) would make it difficult for him to thrive on the inside.
Fant will have a cap hit of $9.8 million in 2021 – fifth-highest among right tackles and 16th among all offensive tackles – which would be an eyesore on the cap sheet if he were to merely man a swing tackle role.
However, Fant offers an added skill that most offensive tackles in the NFL don’t – the ability to play tight end.
In most of his appearances with the Seahawks from 2018-19, Fant would rotate in and out of the game in a tight end alignment, giving Seattle a sixth offensive lineman on the field.
From 2018-19, Fant played tight end on 450 snaps for the Seahawks. That was more than twice as many as any other lineman in the NFL over that span.
Fant averaged 15.5 snaps per game at tight end in contests where he did not start on the offensive line. His playing time would fluctuate wildly depending on Seattle’s needs for the given week. In 2019, Fant played up to 41 snaps at tight end in one game and as few as seven.
While Mike LaFleur‘s San Francisco 49ers offense did not regularly use any of their offensive linemen at the tight end position during his four seasons with the team, LaFleur surely must be at least considering the idea of using Fant at tight end if he is relegated to the second-team offensive line. He has shown that he can make a positive impact in the role.
Let’s revisit some of what Fant can offer as a sixth offensive lineman.
As the left-side tight end, Fant blocks down on the 7-technique (defender over the TE’s inside shoulder). Fant gets a superb jump off the ball (he appears to be the first player on the entire line of scrimmage to jump).
He swings his arm back to load up power and fires his hands into the defender, driving him down the line of scrimmage. Rashaad Penny runs behind Fant and nearly scores a touchdown.
The Seahawks run duo that’s sold effectively by Fant. He simply dominates his man without a double-team at the point of attack—mainly due to the defense’s alignment.
It allows the back to hit the front-side A-gap hard yet bounce it extremely quickly. It’s exactly what any offensive play-caller wants to see from this call—an obvious early option for the back.
Fant is again covered by a 6-tech that lines up with slight leverage to the inside. Fant beats the defender off the ball and is able to slide inside to cover the C-gap.
The defender takes an aggressive approach and attempts to shoot the gap. Fant gets his right hand into the defender’s chest and yanks him down, using his left hand to send the defender into the ground.
Fant can make an impact in pass protection from the tight end spot as well. Here, he takes on star pass rusher Danielle Hunter, who lines up at 7-tech.
Fant plays his part in selling the inside zone fake. He then engages Hunter and pivots to pass blocking. Fant rotates his hips outside, gets his hands on Hunter’s shoulders, and grabs him, gaining control of the battle and keeping Hunter far away from Russell Wilson. Even if Wilson did not scramble, Fant had Wilson’s initial setpoint protected.
Fant takes on Hunter once more. This time, Fant sells the backside of an outside zone.
Fant gets hands-on first, helping him win the battle once it pivots into a one-on-one pass-rush duel. He loads up and throws his hands quickly, getting his left into Hunter’s chest and his right onto Hunter’s shoulder. Fant rotates his hips 90 degrees to the outside. Hunter throws a rip move but fails to break Fant’s grip, and Fant continues to control the battle as he rides Hunter up the arc.
Hunter eventually frees himself up and chases down Wilson for a measly one-yard sack, but this is a win for Fant. Hunter’s initial rush was completely stymied by Fant and Wilson was not touched until about five seconds after the snap. That’s a blowout win for the pass protection.
It will be interesting to see whether Mike LaFleur decides to tap into Fant’s abilities in a tight end role. LaFleur’s Niners never utilized a lineman in such a role, but this could be a great way to prevent’s wide-zone-ready athleticism from going to waste.