JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines the Tuesday that was as the Jaguars prepare for Thursday's Preseason Week 4 game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta
IMPROVEMENT NEEDED, JOECKEL SAYS
Luke Joeckel will start at guard in the Jaguars' 2016 regular-season opener.
That became official Tuesday, with Head Coach Gus Bradley announcing that Kelvin Beachum will start at left tackle with Joeckel moving to guard.
Joeckel, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft who started at left tackle the past two seasons, on Tuesday said essentially what he said throughout training camp about guard – that while he ideally wants to play left tackle, his focus now is being the best guard possible.
He also said he knows he must improve at guard, a position where he never had started a game at any level until this past Sunday in a Preseason Week 3 victory over Cincinnati.
"There are definitely things to improve on," Joeckel said. "I showed some good things. It was the first game I've ever played at guard, but I definitely have to improve."
Joeckel played well on most plays Sunday, but struggled on two or three much-discussed occasions. That included a play at left tackle – and a play at guard on which defensive tackle Geno Atkins rushed with power. Joeckel stumbled backward into quarterback Blake Bortles on the play.
Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said Atkins got Joeckel "on his heels a bit," and Bradley and Joeckel both said Joeckel tripped on center Brandon Linder's foot on the play.
"My heel got caught," Joeckel said.
Bradley said Joeckel improved notably at left tackle during training camp, and also improved at guard. He also said while Joeckel ideally wants to play left tackle, his attitude and approach to the possibility of playing guard has been admirable.
"We really appreciated Luke and how he competed at guard and tackle," Bradley said. "He improved at both areas. We felt like he did a really good job."
The Jaguars' plan entering preseason and training camp was for Joeckel and Beachum to compete at left tackle. That never happened, with Beachum missing the first two preseason games while recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament sustained last season with Pittsburgh.
Joeckel played well at left tackle in two games, with Bradley saying Tuesday the decision was made largely based on Beachum's previous body of work.
Bradley on Tuesday said the Jaguars believe Joeckel has a "high, high upside" at guard.
"I know he feels comfortable at guard," Bradley said. "If you went and asked Luke Joeckel, he'd say, 'I want to play left tackle.' That's his mindset, but he also has the mindset that 'I understand and I feel confident at left guard. I also understand what's best for the team.'''
Neither Joeckel nor Beachum is expected to play against Atlanta Thursday in the preseason finale. The Jaguars will play host to Green Bay in the regular-season opener September 11.
Joeckel said he must improve by then, and that's something he said he can do.
"There are a lot of things I can control," Joeckel said. "You can take some positives just from, 'I can go out and I can fix that.'* *They [the Bengals] have a good defensive front and it's a good test, but I definitely have to get better by Week 1."
BEACHUM PLEASED WITH PLAY
Beachum said he was pleased with how he came out of the Bengals game physically, nothing that while he is icing his knee he feels good about his progress. As far as how he played in his first game since surgery, he said, "I did some good things, but at the same time I did some things I wish I could take back. I'm not going to say I was surprised, but it was a pleasant smile that came out of that game because I was able to do what I hadn't done in a long time. … It didn't blow up or anything, so I was happy with that."
Images from Tuesday's practice as the Jaguars prepare to head to Atlanta and take on the Falcons.
A TACKLING ISSUE
Bradley said he overall was disappointed with the tackling against Cincinnati. "We missed some tackles," Bradley said. "We had some open shots where were had some bad leverage. We had nine missed tackles in the game, so I felt like our tackling wasn't as good as it needed to be. When you get up to that number, it's something that needs to be addressed and talked about."
BACK AT IT
Defensive tackle Sheldon Day returned to practice Tuesday after being out with a back injury since August 4.
Wide receiver Allen Hurns did not practice Tuesday. He had a planned day off.
Defensive tackle Roy Miller remained out of practice with a quad injury that has kept him out of the last two preseason games and offensive tackle Josh Wells remained out of practice with a thumb injury.
Offensive lineman Luke Bowanko (hip) and defensive end Jonathan Woodard (Achilles) remain on the physically unable to perform list.
"I think we both realize the situation we just came out of. At the same time, we know this is the best for the team. We'll try to do everything we can to make the best of the situation."
---Beachum on playing next to Joeckel
"There's nothing this team can't overcome. We're talented enough. It depends on us and how far we want to take this thing. It's going to be an exciting year here in Jacksonville."
*---Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell during 2016 Back-to-Football Luncheon *