The film shows how George Fant made a huge impact on the 2021 New York Jets offense
I’ve written a lot about George Fant recently. Shortly after we covered the news of his apparent frustration with the lack of a contract extension, I discussed why I think he is the New York Jets’ most fascinating player of the 2022 season.
With all of this Fant talk, I wanted to analyze some film clips from his 2021 season to help showcase exactly what he did to put up the impressive statistics that I keep referencing.
Before we get into the film, let’s talk a little about the differences in how the football world tends to evaluate pass-blocking (Fant’s strength) versus run-blocking (Fant’s weakness).
The subtlety of elite pass-blocking
Fant wasn’t an overwhelming run-blocker in 2021, earning a pedestrian run-blocking grade of 59.9 at Pro Football Focus (25th out of 33 left tackles). He hasn’t yet proven he is a strong two-way force.
But it’s hard to be much better in the passing game than Fant was in 2021, at least from a production standpoint. Fant saved a whopping 15.4 total pressures versus expectation. That ranked seventh-best among all tackles and fourth-best among left tackles.
Here’s the explanation for that stat: Fant gave up 18 pressures on 594 pass-blocking snaps (3.03% rate, third-best among LT) whereas the league-average tackle (5.62% pressure rate) would have been expected to give up 33.4 pressures over the same number of snaps. Subtract 18 from 33.4 and you get Fant’s stellar mark of plus-15.4.
That’s a tremendous impact on paper – but does the film back up his elite-level production?
In my opinion, it does.
I think the quality of Fant’s performance in pass protection is often overlooked because of the aesthetic differences between pass-blocking and run-blocking. Great pass-blocking isn’t supposed to pop off the screen in the way that great run-blocking does. As a matter of fact, it’s the complete opposite. If a guy is thriving as a pass-blocker, you should never notice him while watching the game.
This is what Fant was doing all throughout the 2021 season. He was rarely ever singled out by the commentators during a television broadcast or subjected to the vitriol of fans on social media. Fant just continued to quietly do his job, snap after snap.
Whereas run-blocking is about racking up positive plays, pass-blocking is about avoiding negative plays. In many ways, pass-blocking and run-blocking have a similar relationship to defensive backs and wide receivers. Defensive backs are supposed to prevent plays while wide receivers are supposed to make plays.
It’s a lot more difficult to notice the cumulative impact of a player’s ability to avoid negatives than it is to notice their ability to accumulate positives. This is why run-blocking tends to draw more praise for offensive linemen than pass-blocking, and why good receivers get more shine for their production than good cornerbacks do for the lack of production they allow.
Fant is well respected after his 2021 campaign, but it doesn’t feel like he gets a level of fanfare that matches up with the quality of his protection statistics. He certainly doesn’t get as much hype as some other similarly talented offensive linemen, largely because his play isn’t as highlight-worthy.
However, I would argue that plenty of impressive Fant highlights can be found within the Jets’ offensive passing highlights as a team. When the Jets made a big passing play, Fant’s great pass protection was frequently a key part of why the play happened.
That’s what great pass-protection is all about. Good things tend to happen when the quarterback is kept clean.
Fant was (quietly) instrumental in some of the Jets’ biggest offensive plays of the 2021 season. Let’s break down the film behind how Fant’s elite pass-blocking numbers translated to tangible impact on the field.