JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines the day around EverBank Field – with an eye on the Jaguars' left-tackle competition
Still on hold
Whatever this season brings, Thursday was good for Luke Joeckel.
And right now, that's about all we know for certain about the Jaguars' much-anticipated, yet-to-begin left-tackle competition.
Joeckel, the Jaguars' starting left tackle the last two seasons, is expected to compete with Kelvin Beachum for the starting position. That remains on hold while the team remains cautious with Beachum in his return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament sustained with Pittsburgh last season.
With Beachum unavailable, Joeckel started at left tackle against the New York Jets Thursday in the preseason opener. Head Coach Gus Bradley on Friday praised Joeckel's play in the game.
Joeckel on Saturday said he, too, believed he played well.
"I felt pretty good about the game," Joeckel said. "There are definitely still things to work on, but you take a lot of positives from it."
Joeckel said he moved well during the game overall, and Bradley said he was impressed with Joeckel's physicality and his handling of pass rushers' "speed to power" – the latter area being one in which Joeckel has struggled at times.
"It's something where I'm trying to hit the right mindset to finish every play," Joeckel said. "I've still got to work on different times in the game where if you finish one second longer maybe a long run would have broken out – something like that. But I think as a line every guy can say that about one or two plays."
With the loser of the Beachum-Joeckel competition expected to play guard, Joeckel worked at both positions early in training camp. He played exclusively tackle in Beachum's absence Thursday.
Asked if he would have liked some time at guard Thursday, Joeckel said, "It's whatever they have planned for me. If I'm guard one day, I want to be the best guard I can be. If I'm tackle, I want to be the best tackle I can be."
With Beachum not yet having taken a contact repetition in practice, it's difficult to project who will start where on the left side of the line. Bradley on Saturday reiterated what he has said often in recent days – that Beachum is progressing daily at a faster rate than anticipated.
"We'd all like to speed this up," Bradley said, "but getting that information I'm saying, 'OK, it's going to happen soon.' If it was talked to me any other way I'd be more concerned."
BACK AT IT
Cornerback Jalen Ramsey, free safety Tashaun Gipson and center Brandon Linder as expected returned to practice Saturday. The trio sat out Thursday's preseason opener for precautionary reasons. All three are expected to start this season.
Starting tight end Julius Thomas missed Saturday's practice with a knee issue, a situation not thought to be serious.
Thomas was among 12 players missing practice Saturday. The others:
Running back Denard Robinson (personal day off), cornerback Aaron Colvin (ankle), safety James Sample (shoulder), cornerback Davon House (hamstring), running back Jonas Gray (quad), cornerback Nick Marshall (ankle), guard Chris Reed (ankle), offensive tackle Josh Wells (thumb), offensive lineman Kadeem Edwards (ankle), wide receiver Shaq Evans (lower leg) and defensive tackle Sheldon Day (back).
Day, after an impressive offseason and early days of training camp, missed practice last week and Thursday's game with the back issue. Bradley on Saturday said Day is making progress could return to practice soon.
"The last seven or eight practices he has really showed up – and he had another good day [Saturday]. He has been impressive. You see that he is a pro and you can tell that buy his consistent play. Every day he shows up and does some good things."
---Bradley on cornerback Prince Amukamara
After working at left guard much of the offseason – and after being listed as the starter on the first unofficial depth chart last week – Mackenzy Bernadeau worked at reserve center and guard against the Jets. Chris Reed started at left guard against the Jets with guard Tyler Shatley starting for the injured Linder. "It's the more that you can do," Bradley said of Bernadeau, who signed with the Jaguars as a free agent from Dallas in March. "We're trying to build that flexibility and see how he handles it. We keep challenging those guys on the offensive line. With the situation we're in, guys see there's an opportunity. As coaches, we're sitting back and watching to see who steps up."
"I think there were times where maybe his technique got away from him, but overall very, very pleased. He was very impressive on the second level in some of our zone schemes. It was actually good he got so many reps at guard because we found out some things about him."
---Bradley on Reed's performance working with the starters Thursday
*As Thursday's preseason opener fades into the rearview, several performances remain vivid. One is that of wide receiver Allen Robinson (three receptions, 80 yards), but so, too, was wide receiver Marqise Lee's four-reception, 49-yard performance. Lee showed the explosive, play-making potential that prompted the Jaguars to take him in the second round (before Robinson) in the 2014 NFL Draft. It's easy to consider Lee an afterthought because of his many injury-related stops and starts, but he showed no aftereffects of the early-camp hamstring issues Thursday. A very, very good start for the third-year veteran.