Osprey eyes: George Fant-astic

George Fant

The Seattle Seahawks won a hugely important playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night. Seattle's running backs had an outstanding day. They ran for a total of 176 yards on 38 attempts (4.6 yards per run) and combined to score three touchdowns. This was also made possible by a tactical ploy. The Seahawks' offensive line was often reinforced by an extra lineman, George Fant.

George Fant has had a special role in the Seahawks' O-line since last season: If he enters the field as an additional lineman, he must register with the referee as "Eligible" before every snap. This means he is considered a tight end for one play and is also used as such. The Seahawks place Fant to the left or right of the tackles. This allows him to assist in either pass protection or run blocking.

While the Seahawks' entire offensive line had a good day in pass protection against Minnesota(Pro Football Focus doesn't rate any player below 70/100), George Fant was the team's best blocker (75.8/100) in the run game and played a big part in the success on the ground. As a protector of Russell Wilson, Fant was rated with 78.7/100, was even a tad better in this discipline than in the run, but in this case not the best player of his team (surprisingly, Mike Iupati, otherwise known more as a strong run blocker, had the top mark here).

The Seahawks offence already resorted to this style in last season's meeting. Also then, Seattle inflicted massive damage on the Vikings through the running game - 214 yards.

Fant played 39 snaps in 2018, about 59 percent of the offensive snaps. Early Tuesday morning, it was 42 snaps, or 56 percent of the snaps. This time, however, unlike last season, Fant did not have enough of a reception followed by a tackle of the "Turf Monster".

First, a look at the Seahawks' formation at the start of the game. Quarterback Russell Wilson is under centre. Tyrone Swoopes (#46), who is actually at home at the tight end position, acts as fullback for the injured Nick Bellore. In the backfield is running back Chris Carson (#32). On the far left with the number 74 is George Fant, who has lined up next to tight end Jacob Hollister (#48).

Fant goes into motion after the snap, is now on the right side of tackle Germain Ifedi. But the ball is not run to the strong right side, but - this is part of the misdirection - is pitched to the left. Carson does not gain much space there.

Even though the move just described was not successful, it had value for the team in relation to the one that followed. A play was made from a similar looking formation away from the strong side. The defence now knows that a Seahawks run will not automatically go through the strong side. And sure enough, this time the run goes through the supposed strong side with Fant on the right side of the formation. Fant literally has his hands full. But he is able to make decisive blocks to gain space for Penny.

And that doesn't even begin to take the tactics between offence and defence to the extreme. As seen in this video, Hollister and Fant are lined up on the left side of the offensive line. Before the snap, both switch to the right side. With Carson now out of the backfield, the Seahawks' strong side threatens the Vikings defence. Out of this formation, Seattle runs a play-action play after the snap. Hollister runs a route out of position and Fant is involved in pass protection. Carson - initially poised to pick up an eventual blitz by the defense - runs free as a short checkdown option. Wilson's pass misses its target, wide receiver DK Metcalf, but Fant played an excellent pass-blocking role here.

In this critical situation close to their own end zone, the Seahawks initially used Fant as a fullback in disguise in the backfield, similar to Swoopes on other snaps. The player then goes into motion and gets the Vikings defence moving. Fant sets his block perfectly on this play as well. Carson runs through the middle of the field for a good gain.

Finally, a play that is a little easier to understand. Fant is lined up next to Ifedi and both block excellently to open a gap. Through this gap, Carson can advance untouched into the open field and pick up many more yards.

The increased use of George Fants was crowned with great success. And away from the numbers and stats, he was also a way to keep the Vikings defence busy. With quite a few pre-snap moves, Minnesota's defenders had to adjust on short notice. That's especially evident in the last video. This mental stress of having to constantly adjust to new situations or communicate changes in the defence on short notice is also a factor that makes Fant a popular weapon to help the Seahawks offence achieve its goals in both the passing and running game.