Noah Fant Impact: More Than Numbers For Seattle Seahawks Offense

Noah Fant Impact: More Than Numbers For Seattle Seahawks Offense

RENTON (Wash.) – The Seahawks’ remarkable offensive output through their first four matches has been driven by tight ends. New starting quarterback Geno Smith has made them a key part of his passing game.

Now roughly a quarter of the way through the 2022 season, the trio of Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson, and Noah Fant has caught five of Smith’s six touchdown passes, with DK Metcalf being the only receiver to catch a touchdown thus far. After several years of tight ends being a forgotten afterthought, Dissly and Parkinson are each on pace for nearly 500 receiving yards and the three players have efficiently combined to snag 28 receptions on 30 targets.

Interestingly, after being one of the return centerpieces for Seattle in the blockbuster Russell Wilson trade to Denver in March, Fant has been the least productive of the three tight ends thus far. While his 10 receptions ranks fourth on the team, those catches have only netted 56 total yards, two receptions of 10 or more yards, and a single touchdown. Although Fant’s stats are not as impressive as they should be, his impact on his new team has been more tangible than his numbers might suggest. Although his receiving performance has been mediocre to this point, coach Pete Carroll does not expect that to last. He also acknowledged that he was not able to enjoy a breakthrough game in Detroit last Sunday due largely because of misfortune.

Carroll spoke out about Fant’s play before Wednesday’s practice. “What’s not obvious is that he had a few plays, for whatever reason there are penalties here or there.” “He missed it by two to three or maybe four plays that were converted. He’s doing great, and I think he’s a tremendous weapon. “

As Carroll noted, Fant had two big plays wiped out due to penalties by teammates in the Seahawks’ 48-45 win over the Lions. A 13-yard reception was nullified by offensive interference called on Metcalf, while a 17-yard catch didn’t count later in the game due to a holding call against rookie left tackle Charles Cross. With those two grabs accounted for, he would have caught three passes for 33 yards, which easily would have been his best game from a statistical standpoint.

Instead, Fant was held to one catch for two yards, though he made that lone touch count coming wide open near the goal line for his first touchdown catch of the season to increase Seattle’s lead to 24-9 in the second quarter. It marked the fourth straight game with fewer than five receptions and 30 receiving yards to open his tenure with his new team.

Despite not receiving many catches or yards, Carroll has been pleased by Fant’s positive contributions to the Seahawks in areas that aren’t included in the box score. He has made significant strides in an area of his game that he was not highly regarded for being from Iowa four years ago.

“He blocks better than we expected,” Carroll stated.

Known for his athletic ability and receiving prowess at the college level, Fant vaulted up draft boards in 2019 after an impressive combine workout in Indianapolis. At nearly 250 pounds, he ran a blazing 4. 50 40-yard dash and 6. 81 3-cone drill along with posting a 39 1/2-inch vertical jump, displaying elite speed, quickness, and explosiveness for his position.

With such enticing athletic tools, the Broncos picked Fant 19th overall hoping he’d quickly emerge as a dynamic vertical threat and matchup nightmare in the passing game, not to try and transform him into a traditional inline blocking tight end.

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In spite of lackluster quarterbacks throwing to him, Fant somewhat met expectations as a receiver. Though he never took the big step towards stardom Denver envisioned, he registered at least 40 receptions and 550 receiving yards in each of his three seasons with the franchise. He also finished sixth and third among tight ends in yards after the catch in 2019 and 2020 respectively, exhibiting his ability to create with the football in his hands.

Living up to his reputation coming out of college, however, Fant was out of his element when asked to block NFL defenders, never receiving above a 53.7 run blocking grade from Pro Football Focus and twice scoring under 50.0. Because Seattle wanted to establish the run game as part a balanced attack with Carroll, some were skeptical of Fant’s ability to do so seven months ago.

But Fant showed his potential as a blocker on Sunday. This is something he has worked hard at since he joined the league in an effort to become a top tight end.

Fant could be seen fighting to the whistle on 2nd & 1 driving an edge defender onto the Ford Field turf. The pancake block allowed Rashaad Penny to run back for a yard on 2nd & 1, moving the chains for another set of downs, and finally setting up a touchdown for Smith to Dissly.

Later, Fant’s athleticism helped him to be a lead blocker in space for a counter. Sprinting out wide in front of Ken Walker III after running across the formation, he lowered his shoulder at the point of contact to knock cornerback Jeff Okudah off balance, springing the rookie for a 13-yard gain.

Fant still has issues with his physical limitations at the point-of-attack and maintaining blocks. There is much to be done. Although the Seahawks do not expect Fant to be the next Rob Gronkowski in the NFL, his progress has been a welcome improvement for a player who didn’t seem as interested in blocking in his NFL career.

Despite his inept pass catching performance so far, Carroll isn’t concerned and believes he’ll be a much greater focal point for Smith as well as offensive coordinator Shane Waldron to participate in the passing game. He’s already proving himself to be an invaluable addition to the Seahawks, and will continue to do so until those opportunities present themselves.

“We hope to see him more and use him more,” Carroll said. It’s too early to begin adding up numbers when you have three men working. He’s going be a major factor. He’s doing a great job. “

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