At the conclusion of the 2017 season the Seattle Seahawks overhauled their coaching staff, specifically replacing both offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and offensive line coach Tom Cable with Brian Schottenheimer and Mike Solari. With those changes came changes to the style of offensive linemen the team drafted, with a departure from the explosive, athletic linemen that had been the preference during Cable’s time with the team.
Specfically, in the fifth round of the 2018 draft, the Hawks selected offensive tackle Jamarco Jones out of Ohio State. Jones was one of those interesting prospects whose build, technique and fundamentals ranked among the very top of available tackles, but who lacked athleticism. Adding to the potential athleticism issue, Jones’ poor athletic testing at the 2018 NFL Combine came while he weighed less than 300 pounds, meaning that in order to perform in the NFL he’d need to maintain or improve his athleticism while also adding bulk.
Unfortunately for the Seahawks, Jones and fans, his 2018 campaign was cut short by an injury suffered against the Indianapolis Colts in the preseason opener. Logging fewer than two dozen snaps, neither the team nor fans got an opportunity to watch Jones show what he could do against NFL-caliber competition, and thus his performance against the Denver Broncos in Week 1 of the 2019 preseason was greatly anticipated by many.
The concerns among many regarding his athleticism remained just as they had been heading into the game against Denver following a less than stellar performance against Barkevious Mingo in the simulated game the Saturday prior.
This is 2nd time I’ve seen Mingo get Jemarco with the inside feint step. Easy sack. pic.twitter.com/vleik0D3YE— Tony Blakeley (@Cyoplasm) August 4, 2019
Mingo has 10 sacks in six NFL seasons and is not known as a great pass rusher.— John P. Gilbert (@JohnPGilbertNFL) August 3, 2019
However, he's very explosive and fast, and that is the kryptonite for a player like Jones who is technically fantastic, but lacking athletically. https://t.co/IccMk3mVZ7
So, how did Jones fare against the Broncos last week? For the most part, he looked pretty good and handled his assignments well. He wasn’t facing off against Bradley Chubb or Von Miller most of the night because it’s preseason, but most edge rushers across the NFL aren’t of the caliber of Chubb or Miller, so watching film against the Broncos backups isn’t as big of an issue as watching film against the backups of most teams.
In any case, most of the night looked pretty good. A lot of the time Denver defenders were met by Jones properly squared up and able to get his strong hands and long arms on the defender. In this clip, he squares up on rookie Justin Hollins out of Oregon and brings the pass rush to a stop in its tracks.
Hollins is a speedy and explosive pass rusher, who has the burst to get around the edge and present a threat to someone like Jones, but at 6’5”, 248 pounds, he’s not likely to overpower many tackles in the NFL. We’ll come back to Hollins’ speed and burst in a moment, but for now we’ll move on.
The next clip once again shows Jones matching up on Hollins, though this time it is a running play. Jones engages Hollins, locks on and seals Hollins away from the play just as he should. Hollins is able to slide upfield and work himself into a position where Jones is forced to release, but by that time Jones has created enough of a block that Hollins is no threat whatsoever to the ball carrier.
To give an example of a run play where Jones’ athleticism did present a bit of an issue, here he is attempting to seal veteran linebacker Dekoda Watson to the outside, and Watson simply jumps out of Jones’ reach and creates a whiff.
As for how this matter plays out in passing situations, Jones was called for a hold of rookie Malik Reed when Reed used a quick inside move.
That wasn’t the first time the Broncos had tried Jones to the inside. Earlier in the night Watson had attempted to use a spin move to get inside of Jones, however, any plans for Watson to slip inside Jones were put to an immediate halt by Demetrius Knox (63). Knox demonstrates why when a rusher is already engaged with an offensive linemen why it’s generally a good rule of thumb not to come in and blast that defender.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the energy and the enthusiasm that appear evident as Knox comes in ready to deliver a blow. That said, all Knox does is knock Watson off of Jones’ block and into open space where he is able to recollect himself and go after Geno Smith for the sack. The sack obviously isn’t Jones’ fault, I have simply included it here because it shows the Broncos testing Jones to the inside and Jones performing adequately, and because Knox’s hit makes me laugh for some reason.
In any case, the big risk for the Seahawks when it comes to Jones playing tackle was evident on a play in the second half. Getting back to rookie Justin Hollins, Hollins ran the 40 in 4.50 seconds at the combine, which is the same time Cliff Avril recorded in the 40 at his combine. That, of course, means that Hollins has the speed to be a pain around the edge in the NFL, just as Avril did. Obviously, it takes far more than just a simple speed rush to succeed as an edge rusher, but this is what it looks like when a defender with that kind of speed and quickness gets a good jump on Jones around the edge.
Again, that wasn’t what most of the night looked like. For most of the game, the performance Jones displayed looked like it did in the first two clips, where he did what was asked and the defender he was tasked with blocking didn’t impact the play.
That said, that play demonstrates the risk the Seahawks would run if Jones were forced into action.
The Hawks play in a division where the pass rushers include the likes of Dante Fowler, Chandler Jones, Nick Bosa, Haason Redick, DeForest Buckner and Aaron Donald. Obviously, players like Jones, Donald and Buckner will give nearly any tackle issues, much less an inexperienced tackle who falls on the lower end of the athleticism scale. So, the question regarding Jones remains the same after Week 1 of the preseason as it was when he was drafted: Will his technique and fundamentals be enough to make up for what he lacks in athleticism?
It’s one of those questions that will certainly be interesting to watch Sunday when Seattle plays the Minnesota Vikings.