RENTON — Jamarco Jones could make his first NFL start Sunday in Cleveland in something of a homecoming: He played his college ball about two hours up the road at Ohio State in Columbus.
Jones, who will likely get the call to play right guard if D.J. Fluker’s balky hamstring leaves him unable to play, will have lots of friends and family in attendance.
But if that sounds like a potentially overwhelming situation for a first start, Seahawks coaches aren’t worried.
Jones could hardly have been thrown into a hotter caldron than last Thursday. Two series into the game, he had to replace Fluker, getting not only the first snaps of his NFL career but at a position he had practiced seriously for only a few weeks and often went against maybe the NFL’s best defensive lineman, Rams tackle Aaron Donald.
Jones’ calm manner in that situation impressed coaches and teammates the most.
“In that moment, the moment wasn’t too big for him,’’ said offensive-line coach Mike Solari. “He went in and he executed beautifully.”
Here are five other things worth knowing about a player who could become a big part of Seattle’s future.
He really had never played guard in a game before Thursday
The Seahawks drafted Jones in the fifth round in 2018 out of Ohio State, where he played left tackle.
Moving young offensive linemen around early in their careers is not uncommon, showing teams how they look at different positions.
But Jones missed almost all of last season with an ankle injury and was pretty rooted at the two tackle spots throughout training camp this year. He didn’t really do much at guard until early in the regular season, when Ethan Pocic — the main backup at both spots — suffered neck and back injuries.
Jones’ snaps a few weeks ago were the first he’d ever taken at guard. Other than some defensive-line play early in his high-school career, he says he’d always been a tackle.
So, what’s the difference between the two?
“Things just happen quicker (at guard),’’ he said. “At tackle, there is more space between you and the defensive line. It is more of a patient game.’’
Jones has what coaches call ‘FBI’
The fact that things “just happen quicker’’ at guard might make that spot a better fit for Jones, who, at 6 feet, 4 inches and 293 pounds, was regarded by some scouts as not necessarily having a classic tackle’s physique. Solari says the Seahawks learned quickly that Jones is a quick learner and quick processor of what he sees on the field.
“He’s got great, we call it ‘FBI’ — football intelligence,’’ Solari said. “He just has a great feel for the game and awareness, and he is able to kind of slow the game down.
“He has a nice feel for understanding angles and adjustments,’’ Solari said. “Not everybody has it.’’
He had a 4.2 GPA in high school
Jones also has proved to be book smart. He had a 4.2 GPA at the De La Salle Institute in Chicago, a school that opened in 1889 and is roughly three blocks from where the Chicago White Sox play. Among its famous alums are former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and announcers Bryant and Greg Gumbel.
At Ohio State, he majored in family resource management, graduating in December 2017 with an eye toward someday working in finance. “Just always been interested in money and financial planning and things like that,’’ Jones said.
Jones’ fall in draft might be Seattle’s gain
Jones is making a little bit of money these days, in the second year of a four-year rookie deal paying him up to $2.7 million.
But he might be making a lot more — and maybe playing for someone else — had he not turned in a performance at the 2018 scouting combine that raised a few red flags for some teams and caused his fall to No. 168 overall.
“His combine was awful,’’ an anonymous NFC exec was quoted as saying in his official NFL.com pre-draft scouting bio.
“It was just a bad day,’’ Jones says now of the combine. “I don’t feel like those combine numbers are the numbers I’m used to putting up. But I think I’m a good football player, and I don’t think that would determine if I could go out there and play offensive line or not.’’
The Seahawks were swayed by what they saw on film of his two seasons as a starter at Ohio State as well as what they said were encouraging reports from people close to Jones that the combine was an outlier.
“Not everyone goes to the combine and kicks butt,’’ general manager John Schneider said on the day Jones was drafted. “We had some really good information on how he’s been working and improving since (then).’’
He’d never attended an NFL game until he was drafted
Though Jones grew up in an NFL city, he never once went to a Bears game (and was actually more of a Colts fan because of Peyton Manning).
So, the first NFL game he attended was the first one he played in a year ago in the preseason against the Colts, when he suffered the injury that held him out the rest of the year.
“Crazy, huh?’’ Jones said.
Maybe not quite as crazy as standing up to Donald in what was his first actual NFL action last Thursday and holding his own. Pro Football Focus gave Jones the highest grade of any of Seattle’s offensive linemen and judged him the only one not to allow at least one pressure.
After the 2018 injury, Jones said he was just glad to play football again. As for Donald, he knows he’ll see him again.
“He didn’t really speak that much during the game,’’ Jones said. “He just stared at me.’’
Maybe like everyone else, Donald was trying to quickly figure out what the new guy on the line is all about.