Out Of The Box: Beyond a Joeckel
Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Luke Joeckel enters 2016 needing to lift his game or he may find his way to the bench.
Three years into the Luke Joeckel era, the Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t yet willing to apply the draft bust label. Admittedly, Joeckel missed the majority of his rookie campaign, but the two plus seasons of Joeckel’s career certainly haven’t lived up to the expectations that come with being the second overall pick. Whether or not you can note a two-year starter as a bust, Joeckel has failed to provide the crucial blind side protection for Jacksonville and the offensive line remains one of the areas needing progress this off-season.
the Jaguars left tackle looked outmatched too often
Joeckel’s play, on the whole, was considerably better in 2015, but a very poor final two weeks of the season saw the Jaguars fan base give a collective groan. His performance in the season finale vs Houston was beyond disastrous, with not only JJ Watt abusing the Texas A&M product, but fellow end Whitney Mercilus. There were visions of the early career issues for #76 in the Week 17 debacle not the upward trend many were hoping to see.
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The real concerns in reviewing the film from Joeckel’s 2015 season, is that it was sheer physical mismatches that highlighted Joeckel’s play. Overpowered by bull rush maneuvers, slow to set the edge vs a strong outside rush and regularly caught lunging when responding to a strong inside move, the Jaguars left tackle looked outmatched too often.
Head coach Gus Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell continue to speak positively about Joeckel’s development, and there is undoubtedly some hope that the best is still ahead, but the time is now for Jacksonville to identify some legitimate competition at the left tackle position. A veteran presence to push Joeckel and compete for that starting position must be on the agenda as a repeat of the 2015 Bortles breakout would be severely hamstrung by line play as experienced to close out the year.
Cap room exists for Jacksonville to be active in free agency, and whilst not a large portion will be earmarked for offensive tackle, finding a suitable veteran swing tackle, and one with the potential to start on either side of the line, must be on the agenda. With solid starter Jermey Parnell injured in that same fateful Texans clash, there was no chance for the newly explosive Jaguars offense to get rolling. Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson will surely be aware of this.
Expect an off-season of positive rhetoric out of the Jaguars camp in regards to Joeckel, but it is the on-field expectations befitting a second overall pick that are the ones that Jaguars followers will really be looking to see met in 2016.