JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's five Tuesday takeaways as the Jaguars prepare to play the Detroit Lions at EverBank Field Friday in the third game of the 2015 preseason …
1)Handling power.We begin Tuesday takeaways with left tackle Luke Joeckel, who drew praise from Head Coach Gus Bradley following a preseason loss to the New York Giants Saturday. Bradley said he believed Joeckel played better against the Giants than in the preseason opener against Pittsburgh, particularly handling power. That was an area of focus for Joeckel entering this season, and was a major reason Joeckel added strength and bulk during the offseason. Joeckel on Tuesday said he agreed with Bradley that the area improved against the Giants. "That's definitely been one of the things we've been focused on in camp, and it's coming along," Joeckel said. "It's been a process, but my set and that kind of stuff is coming along. Now, I've just got to keep tweaking things and fixing things with the hands and I think I'll be good to go. Coming into camp that's one thing we circled. I think (Saturday) was an improvement, but I can get better from it also, so that's exciting, too."
2)Embracing the role.As Bradley sees it, Luke Bowanko is adjusting to his new role. Bradley surprised some observers Monday by announcing that Bowanko would work some at tackle after not winning the starting center position. Bowanko had competed with Stefen Wisniewski for that role throughout training camp, but while it's rare for a center to also play tackle, Bradley said Bowanko's athleticism makes it possible. Bradley said Bowanko took extra repetitions at tackle after practice Tuesday. "He is a very hard worker," Bradley said of Bowanko. "He's got some athleticism to be a tackle-type, so we want to take a look at him. I know in talking to him (Monday) he appreciates the opportunity of being that sixth guy that can play any of the spots, so we're going to try it out." Bradley said while Bowanko likely will play mostly right tackle he also took repetitions on the left side.
Take a look at images from Tuesday's practice as the Jaguars prepare for the Detroit Lions.
3)Run to win.Running back Toby Gerhart sees Tyson Alualu's effectiveness as a lead-blocker simply. "I don't think anyone wants to get in his way when he's coming full-head-of-steam at him," Gerhart said. "He's going a good job kicking out the edge." The Jaguars experimented with using Alualu, a defensive end, in a lead-blocking role during training camp. On Saturday against the Giants, Gerhart ran behind Alualu three times for first downs in third-and-short situations. Bradley said this week he and offensive coordinator Greg Olson had decided on those third-and-short plays they were going to run twice if necessary for the first down. Bradley said the idea was to set a tone and Gerhart liked the message. "On third-and-2 a lot of times people have a run-pass option," Gerhart said. "We just said, 'Hey, we're going to go heavy and we're going to go after this and we're going to get it.' … It was exciting to establish our identity. He has faith in us in what we want to do."
4)Bortles on Wiz.Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles made it clear throughout camp he didn't have a huge preference about the starting center, saying last week he hadn't noticed much of a difference between one or the other. A day after Bradley named Wisniewski the starter, Bortles talked about the move, saying that Bowanko would be valuable in the "sixth man" role because of his versatility and athleticism. He also said he liked Wisniewski in the starting role, particularly the fifth-year veteran's mental approach and experience in Olson's offense. Wisniewski started the past four years in Oakland, with Olson the Raiders' offensive coordinator the past two. "As a quarterback, to have a guy that is as mental as 'Wiz' is a huge help," Bortles said. "He helps a lot of us out, especially being in the offense the last couple years and knowing 'Oley' [Olson]."
5)Keep an eye on … Sergio Brown.The veteran free safety appears likely to start entering the season, and Bradley said he followed a good game against the Giants Saturday with a good practice Tuesday. "I think he understands some of the principles," Bradley said. "I think for him he's starting to get a better understanding of what we're asking at that position. You saw him cover some ground which was really good in the Giants game. He made a couple of open field tackles, which is what we need out of that free safety. It's one game. He just needs to keep building on that." Brown signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent from the Colts, and also is a key special teams player. He was expected to compete in training camp with James Sample, but Sample sustained a broken arm during organized team activities and will make his debut Saturday.