It’s been a trying year for Denver Broncos second-year tight end Noah Fant, from dealing with a nagging ankle injury, to quarterback injury and COVID issues, to just general up-and-down sophomore year struggles.
On Sunday night in Arrowhead Stadium, Fant seemed to shake some of those struggles off, especially early, but as the game dragged on, personnel decisions by the coaches, puzzling decisions with the football by Drew Lock turned what looked like a promising day overall for the Iowa product into another frustrating game for a guy who has all the tools to be one of the most explosive tight ends in football.
Right away in Kansas City, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur dialed up a deep shot for Fant down the left side against cornerback Bashaud Breeland.
This was the first time in a few weeks I’ve seen the Broncos move Fant around and line him up as a wideout. Lined up wide left in a 1x3 formation, Fant draws single coverage with single-high safety over the top.
Fant does a great job with a clean release against Breeland, working vertically to give Lock the option of the shot play on the third offensive snap of the game.
Fant creates separation late in the route and hauls in the 37-yarder to spark the Broncos early. Unfortunately, Lock threw a pick late in the drive, taking points off the board.
On the next offensive drive, Shurmur stayed creative with Fant, putting him in motion to bring him into the slot, working a quick out for Fant for the 5-yard catch to move the chains.
You can see the athleticism and easy movement skills permeating from Fant here. He’s in and out of his cut quickly, snaps his head around and secures the throw to move the chains.
Early in the season, these two types of plays were staples under Shurmur, manufacturing touches for Fant on delayed routes. For weeks, I hadn’t seen it, but it was nice to see them return for Fant.
He does a great job selling the blocks and then slips out into space for easy throws from Lock.
I had to go back to Week 1 at home against the Tennessee Titans to find a similar play.
Fant is an uber-talented tight end that needs to be targeted more. Sure, guys like Tim Patrick, Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler deserve a lion’s share of the targets right now, but having a weapon like Fant and targeting him just 6.1 times per game is unacceptable.
What made Sunday night’s loss hard to swallow was seeing the Broncos down six on the final drive of the game…and there was Fant – in pass protection against Frank Clark and Tanoh Kpassagnon. That’s simply unacceptable.
Do you think the Chiefs and Andy Reid would have Travis Kelce in pass protection down a score late? Absolutely not.
For this Broncos offense to take the next step with all these weapons, coaches have to get out of their own way and stop overthinking things. Here’s hoping Vic Fangio had a word with Shurmur regarding Fant being rendered obsolete on the final drive of the game.