On paper, it was a scenario that had disaster written all over it.
Early in the Seahawks' Thursday showdown with the Los Angeles Rams, starting right guard D.J. Fluker left the game with a hamstring injury. Seattle's top backup guard, Ethan Pocic, was inactive because of a back injury, so in came Jamarco Jones, who coming into the game had only seen minimal playing time on special teams and none on offense.
Jones, a second-year tackle out of Ohio State, spent his rookie season on injured reserve, and through Seattle's first four games this year, he had played all of seven snaps, all on special teams. And prior to arriving in Seattle, all of his game experience, not just in college but in high school and even youth football, had been at tackle, not guard. Yes, he had been practicing at guard, particularly with Pocic injured, but Jones had literally never played guard in a game before Thursday night.
Oh, and did we mention that playing guard against the Rams means trying to block Aaron Donald, winner of back-to-back NFL Defensive Player of the year awards and general menace to opposing offenses?
But not only did Jones survive a major test as he played 65 of Seattle's 74 offensive snaps, he played very well to help the Seahawks earn a 30-29 victory over the Rams.
"He did really well," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Monday having reviewed the game on film. "I was shocked that it was so smooth for him to move to the right side and play guard when there's no background of it other than in practice. He moved his feet well. He played strong. Assignment wise, he was solid. I think he got out of the game with no pressures. He might have been the only guy up front that did that. At the time, Fluke unable to go, we're fortunate that he stepped up like he did.
"It's a remarkably good showing for him and for us going forward. As for our depth and all of that, he's healthy and ready to go. We have a kid chomping at the bit to be part of it. Our coaches have always trusted him from the start. He has really good awareness and really good sense for the game. He's a natural… You almost have to have some special savvy and qualities to be able to pull it off like he did."
As for Fluker, Carroll said the veteran guard has "got a hamstring pull. We'll figure out what that means in terms of return and all that. I don't know that yet, but we've verified that he's got a strain."
While the Seahawks will hope to get Fluker back soon, Jones' play Thursday gave them confidence in that spot even if they have to play without Fluker for some amount of time going forward.
"Jamarco Jones played exceptional stepping in there, getting thrown in the fire," center Justin Britt said. "I've worked with him many times in practice at guard. He's a tackle, and guard was new to him, and for him to step in there and believe in himself, and be the guy we needed him to be tonight, it's amazing."
Jones' explanation for his performance following the game made the challenges of his night sound a lot simpler than they were.
"Coach told me to get ready, and I was ready for the moment. I prepared this week, I knew my stuff, and I was ready to go," he said. "You never know when something like that might happen and you have to step up, so you always want to be prepared. So I try to go into every week preparing as if I'm going to play any position out there. I just try to prepare as best I can."
Jones was primarily a left tackle when he arrived in Seattle, then began working at right tackle as well, and he said more recently he has worked at both guard spots, trying to make himself as valuable to the line as possible.
"I move all over the place, left tackle, left guard, right guard, right tackle," he said. "So I've been trying to play all over the place and learn everything."
Further complicating matters for Jones is the fact that Seattle was playing on a short week, meaning less time to prepare and less physical practices, which can be a challenge for linemen. Yet Jones didn't just make it through the game, he more than held his own.
"I was telling Jamarco on the sideline, I was like, 'You're ready, you're ready,'" said quarterback Russell Wilson who was sacked only once Thursday. "He hadn't really played guard, so I didn't know if he was ready. But he played great. You got Aaron Donald on the other side, arguably the best defensive lineman ever to play the game, and (Jones) handled things great. I thought he was poised, a big-time player. We love his work ethic. He's been kind of hopping in guard every once in a while just to give another guy a break or whatever, but he hasn't really played, and I thought he was amazing tonight."
Said left tackle Duane Brown, "I have to take my hat off to Jamarco Jones, he's been playing tackle all season. He stepped in and played right guard at the drop of a hat. He didn't blink twice against the best interior lineman in football and played big. I take my hat off to him, and I appreciate him. I appreciate all of my guys up front."