RENTON, WA — Four years into his professional playing career, Seahawks offensive lineman Jamarco Jones knows a thing or two about the fluid nature of the NFL. Though he's never locked down a starting role to call his own, he's made seven starts and has appeared in 22 total games, including playoffs, after missing his entire rookie campaign with an ankle injury.
Both of those numbers are expected to grow this Sunday with right tackle Brandon Shell (ankle) missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Head coach Pete Carroll told KIRO 7 on Friday that Shell will be a game-time decision, but Jones, for now, is expected to fill in and receive his fair share of snaps against Vikings All-Pro defensive end Danielle Hunter and company.
It's a tough draw for any lineman, let alone a backup. But Jones has played a considerable amount of ball compared to other reserves, thanks in part to his versatility as a tackle/guard combo. He's proved capable of holding his own in the past, so any whiff Hunter and Minnesota's defensive line have of "blood in the water" may be faint at best.
At the very least, that's what the Seahawks and offensive coordinator Shane Waldron are banking on if Jones' number is called upon.
“I think Jamarco has done a great job for us," Waldron told reporters on Thursday. "I think collectively as a whole, everyone can do better, starting with myself, in being efficient, being on the same page, and get that thing going.”
Last week, Jones' versatility was put on full display against the Titans. Initially filling in for Damien Lewis at left guard, the Ohio State alum played nine snaps then moved over to right tackle when Shell suffered his respective injury towards the end of the game. Overall, he allowed one pressure in 14 total snaps as Seattle's offense faltered while Tennessee finalized a 33-30 comeback victory in overtime.
“[Offensive line coach] Mike Solari has done a good job from the start of training camp with him," Waldron evaluated. "And [assistant offensive line coach] Keli’i [Kekuewa] and [run game coordinator] Andy [Dickerson], moving him around, and a lot of those O-linemen around. They got to work him at multiple positions. Getting that work at multiple positions for a guy like Jamarco, he’s right on the cusp of being a starter."
Versatility and availability tend to be the best abilities for players in Jones' position. However, health has been an issue for him at times, particularly this summer when he missed a decent amount of training camp with back spasms. Thankfully for him, he was able to return to the field with plenty of time to spare before his roster spot could be jeopardized.
Of course, it's possible nothing could have put his future in Seattle in doubt. With Cedric Ogbuehi (biceps) on short-term injured reserve, Jones has become the Seahawks' go-to man if an injury occurs on both the interior and exterior of their offensive line. While his seven starts haven't cumulatively gone well, he's progressively improved with each opportunity and has earned the trust of his coaches and teammates.
"When his number is called upon," Waldron continued. "He’s shown that he can play at that starting level ability. It makes you feel good about, if it’s a different position this week, or in the course of games if a guy gets hurt or has to come out for a play or two, you’ve got different swing backup linemen that you feel good about. You don’t feel like you’re missing a beat right there. Jamarco is one of those guys.”
Jones had two starts last year: one at right guard against the Cardinals and one at right tackle against the Giants. The latter is especially noteworthy because it may have been the most complete game of his young career, even though the Seahawks' offense struggled mightily overall in their eventual 17-12 loss. Allowing just one pressure in 52 snaps, Jones was awarded a 77.9 pass block grade and a solid 68.1 run blocking grade from Pro Football Focus.
Having that kind of depth along the offensive line is not very common, giving the Seahawks a sense of reliability in situations like the one they currently find themselves in. If Shell is determined unable to go in pregame warmups, they can at least find solace in falling back on Jones, hoping he can pick up right where he left off.