George Fant’s injury is, as Pete Carroll put it, ‘heartbreaking’.
His rise from undrafted free agent/basketball player to starting left tackle was meteoric. His occasional struggles last year were predictable and his improved play in the first two pre-season games of 2017 was encouraging.
Early in the game against Minnesota he handled $58m pass rusher Everson Griffen not once but twice:
Vikings new $60 million man Everson Griffen gets absolutely stonewalled by LT George Fant on the first play of the game pic.twitter.com/G3NfFpJde6
— Ben Baldwin (@guga31bb) August 19, 2017
Fant manhandling Griffen again pic.twitter.com/hXfdYCAcqr
— Ben Baldwin (@guga31bb) August 19, 2017
He’s in control. His footwork compliments his power at the point of attack and he’s balanced.
He looks like a starting left tackle.
The Seahawks haven’t had much luck with injuries over the last twelve months. A year ago Seattle’s season derailed in week one with Russell Wilson’s ankle problem. By the end of the year Kam Chancellor and Michael Bennett had missed significant time while Earl Thomas and Tyler Lockett suffered broken legs.
And there’s the laundry list of injuries at running back.
Before the 2017 season has even kicked off the Seahawks are without their starting left tackle due to an ACL injury and their first pick in the draft, Malik McDowell, is out indefinitely.
It’s also troubling to see Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise picking up minor niggles again.
Hopefully this isn’t a sign of things to come.
Naturally there’s an air of despondency among Seahawks fans. Fant was starting to look really good. He’d been anointed the starter. Things were settled on the left side of the O-line.
However, some perspective is required before the trade demands spread like wildfire and panic sets in.
For starters, while losing Fant is a blow, this isn’t an injury to Earl Thomas or Russell Wilson. Seattle has two players on the roster with experience at left tackle (Luke Joeckel and Rees Odhiambo) and they have depth at guard.
Joeckel might not have the athletic upside of Fant but he was a former #2 overall pick as a left tackle. Odhiambo was also highly thought of when Seattle spent a coveted third round pick on him a year ago.
When Seattle won the Super Bowl in 2013 they had Paul McQuistan as their starting left tackle for eight games. It didn’t derail the season and McQuistan, as serviceable as he was, probably isn’t a better left tackle than Joeckel.
If they want to add an outsider, Branden Albert is the name that stands out. He was recently released by Jacksonville after retiring and un-retiring in a short space of time. Is he likely to move to Seattle on a minimum contract? It’s not improbable but he’d have to value competing over money.
It’s also unclear whether the Seahawks would want to go with a street free agent and struggle through growing pains when they have options on the roster already.
‘Next man up’ is probably the answer. After all, if there is any flexibility to make a tweak or two to the roster, are you not better off bringing in the much talked about extra D-liner and trusting Joeckel and Odhiambo to hold down the left side?
At least Odhiambo is getting plenty of snaps. Against the Chargers he saw 90% of the plays — 30% more than anyone else. He again led the offense versus Minnesota with 67% of the snaps (Ethan Pocic was second with 54%).
It’s a crying shame for George Fant and hopefully he can make the kind of miraculous, inspiring comeback we’ve seen from Jimmy Graham, Earl Thomas and Tyler Lockett over the last 18 months.
The experience of those three players in particular will be a useful resource and Fant won’t be short of support. The Seahawks appeared as connected as ever during the Minnesota game.
The positives for me were Naz Jones and Marcus Smith. Seattle needs D-line and pass rush depth. Jones was a beast throughout, creating pressure and showing a relentless attitude. Smith had three QB hurries and looked like a former first round pick with a role to play.
It was also encouraging to see the tight ends involved, Mike Davis had a nice cameo at running back and of course Kasen Williams had a stunning pair of catches in the first quarter.
It’d also be unfair not to mention the form of Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin. Wilson looks incredibly sharp and Baldwin appears ready to further enhance his ever growing reputation. It was also fun to see him get in Chris Carson’s face after he checked out of the game in the second quarter. Moments later, Mike Davis scored a touchdown on a checkdown by Wilson. It was a little reminder by Baldwin that the ‘Always Compete’ mantra doesn’t take a play off.
The Seahawks look strong after two pre-season games. The key is to avoid further injuries and find a way to add another impact defensive lineman to the rotation.
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