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Seahawks’ Tom Cable: Penalties aside, George Fant played ‘really well’ in starting debut

RENTON – When the Seahawks didn’t acquire a left tackle before Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline, it was something of a vote of confidence in their in-house options at that position, veteran Bradley Sowell and undrafted rookie George Fant.

Sowell is recovering from a sprained MCL that knocked him out of last week’s game at New Orleans, which pressed Fant into his first start at any level since junior high. That meant the Seahawks were trusting Russell Wilson’s blindside to a college basketball player who spent one season on his school’s football team – as a backup tight end.

Did George Fant show he should be the Seahawks’ starting LT?

But what seemed like a situation that had disaster written all over it turned out better than offensive-line coach Tom Cable could have envisioned. He said Thursday that Fant’s starting debut exceeded his expectations, four penalties notwithstanding.

“Yeah, I don’t think there’s any question about that, especially with the noise, playing an experienced rusher and all that,” Cable said. “Yeah, I thought there would be a few more hiccups there, but he handled the game itself really well, so it’s just some of those decision-making issues.”

Cable was referring to the four penalties Fant committed. He was officially called for a two – a false start and clipping – but he was the guilty part on an illegal block in the back and another false start that were mistakenly attributed to teammates. The clipping penalty pushed the Seahawks back 15 yards and helped kill their opening drive, which ended in a punt. Same with a third-quarter drive that began with an 8-yard run by C.J. Prosise. Fant’s illegal block on that play cost Seattle 10 yards from the end of the run. His first false start came on a third-and-11 play in the first quarter, making it a third-and-16 that Seattle couldn’t convert.

Cable mentioned those penalties several times while discussing Fant’s performance and noted how the 15- and 10-yarders were particularly costly.

“Looking forward to his next opportunity as he is and see if we can clean that stuff up,” Cable said. “But in terms of the environment and being able to execute what he’s asked to do, protection, run game and all that, really well done for the first time out. But he learned a lot, too. The illegal chop from behind, you can’t do that now. Hands to the back in space on the Prosise run, those kinds of things like that. He’s good that way. It’s all new for him. So as he has those hiccups, he’ll put it in the file and move on and make it better.”

Cable felt Fant was able to do that – move on – during the game. He said Fant adjusted “really well” Sunday, even after mistakes that tend to throw some young players off.

“He was nice on the sideline in terms of what we needed to fix, he did, and what he needed to learn from, he did,” Cable said. “I’ve said this before – that’s what you look for. Those guys who kind of freak out and, ‘Oh my god, the sky is falling,’ or whatever if something negative happens, those are the ones you worry about. But even the penalties – which were, again, two of them were majors – he was able to put it behind him and keep going.”

Asked about the biggest areas in which Fant can improve, Cable said: “Confidence. Confidence, and you want him to grow, you want him to take those four plays and learn from all four of them and then take the rest of it and learn from those as well, being a little better finisher in the run game, maybe playing with a little better pad level consistently. Some of those kinds of things, and I watched him in practice today and he’s already working on it. So it’s pretty cool when you get a young guy like that who’s that hungry and sees that there’s an opportunity here if he can seize it.”

The positive reviews from Cable and from coach Pete Carroll earlier in the week suggest its entirely possible that Seattle decides to give Fant the starting job even when Sowell returns from his knee injury. That may not be this week as Sowell was limited in practice Thursday, a sign that he’s not certain to be available for Monday night’s game against Buffalo.

“We’ll see,” Cable said when asked about Fant possibly supplanting Sowell permanently. “We need to get Brad healthy. He’ll start to do some work this week and then we’ll work out where we’re going to put this thing together.”