George Fant is enjoying a breakout year for the New York Jets
When Mekhi Becton went down with a knee injury in Week 1 that would keep him out for an extended period of time, it seemed like the New York Jets offensive line was doomed. The unit was already sputtering with Becton on the field in the season-opening game. Its outlook was not bright without the gifted 6-foot-7 behemoth.
George Fant was the man tasked with replacing Becton.
Fant had a so-so 2020 season with the Jets after signing a three-year, $27.3 million contract ($13.7 million guaranteed) to be their starting right tackle. He started 14 games, 12 of those coming at right tackle and two coming at left tackle in place of Becton. There were many flashes of brilliance as a product of his sublime athleticism, but he could not muster consistency.
In 2021, Fant battled it out with late-offseason pickup Morgan Moses for the starting right tackle job. Fant defeated the longtime starter, leaving Moses as the backup swing tackle.
It didn’t take long for Becton’s injury to place both players on the field. Fant slid over to the left side while Moses took his familiar spot at right tackle, where he started 96 games for Washington from 2015-20.
Most offenses fall apart when they lose their starting left tackle, but Fant has been a savior for the Jets’ offensive line. He has been far more than just adequate in Becton’s place – he is putting together a career-best season, specifically in pass protection.
Fant has allowed just 14 pressures on 386 pass-blocking snaps this season. That is a pressure rate of 3.62%, which ranks eighth-best among qualified left tackles as of Nov. 19.
- Tyron Smith (DAL), 1.87%
- Andrew Whitworth (LAR), 1.92%
- Geron Christian (HOU), 3.14%
- Rashawn Slater (LAC), 3.16%
- Christian Darrisaw (MIN), 3.23%
- Jake Matthews (ATL), 3.42%
- Andrew Thomas (NYG), 3.48%
- George Fant (NYJ), 3.62%
- Donovan Smith (TB), 3.67%
- Dion Dawkins (BUF), 3.89%
That is a career-low pressure rate for Fant, whose previous career average was 8.24%. He had pushed his rate down to 6.51% in 2020, but that was still considerably above the league average for tackles that year (5.3%). Over his two starts at left tackle in Becton’s place, Fant allowed a pressure rate of 8.70%.
None of the 14 pressures allowed by Fant this season were sacks – he has yielded 12 hurries, two hits, and zero sacks. Fant’s total of 386 pass-blocking snaps without allowing a sack is tops among left tackles.
Consistency is another impressive aspect of Fant’s performance. He has been solid on a game-to-game basis, not having a single stinker. The highest total of pressures he has allowed in a game is three. Fant gave up fewer than three pressures in eight of his nine games.
There is still room for Fant to improve in the run game – his 60.8 PFF run-blocking grade ranks at the 36th percentile among qualified tackles – but his excellent pass protection more than makes up for his mediocre run blocking.
At age 29, Fant has taken a considerable leap. It’s typically shocking to see a player hit his peak that late, but in the case of Fant, it’s not surprising at all when you consider his background.
Fant never played football in high school and was recruited to Western Kentucky to play basketball, which he did for four years. He did not take up football until his fifth year in college, by which point he was already 23 years old (an age Becton will not reach until 2022, for comparison’s sake).
Six years later, Fant has learned how to maximize his athletic gifts, using them to provide pristine blindside protection for the many passers who have lined up under center for the Jets this year.
Fant is due to have a cap hit of $10.7 million in 2022, the third and final year of his contract. That number is currently slated to rank 25th among offensive tackles. The Jets can cut him and save $9.7 million of that total while only being charged with a dead money hit of $1 million.
Releasing Fant in 2022 seemed like a no-brainer before the 2021 season began, but with the numbers he is putting up, he is starting to look like a player who may be worth the money.
The Jets are hoping that Becton can return sooner rather than later so they can give Fant a chance to prove he can maintain his success on the right side. On Nov. 15, it was reported that Becton is “one to three weeks away” from a return to practice, so things aren’t exactly looking bright on that front. We are already beyond the extent of the six-to-eight-week timetable Becton was initially given.
Nevertheless, Fant is creating a good problem for the Jets with his surprisingly fantastic play as a pass protector.
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