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Inside the Jaguars: Joeckel feels ready


JACKSONVILLE – Luke Joeckel made no guarantees.

But if Thursday was any indication, and if the rookie first-round right tackle is correct about his hip, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft could play Saturday.

"I feel good – I feel ready to go," said Joeckel, who missed last week's preseason loss to the New York Jets with a hip flexor.

Joeckel spoke an hour after the Jaguars' Thursday walkthrough practice, which was originally scheduled for the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields before being moved to the SeaBest Cool Zone underneath EverBank Field because of lightning.

The Jaguars originally planned for Joeckel take on-field repetitions Thursday, a plan that changed when practice was moved. The Jaguars walked through plays for the Week 3 preseason game against the Eagles game Saturday, but took no live work.

Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said Joeckel is a game-time decision for Saturday.

"Ideally, today would have been to go out there and have him get some practice reps on the field but we were unable to do that, so we best utilized him to lock it in mentally and we'll see how it goes," Bradley said. "He's not going to be playing as much as the first group but we would like to see him play."

Joeckel, who last missed a game when he sustained a broken leg and ankle in the fourth game of his sophomore season in high school, sustained the hip flexor in the Jaguars' scrimmage at EverBank Field August 3. He practiced and played through the injury the following week against Miami.

"It's something I've never had to deal with before," Joeckel said. "Having these muscle strains, you feel like you shouldn't be out because it's not like a bone sticking out."

Joeckel said he grew up playing with exactly that mantra.

"My dad told me, 'I never want to see you laying on the field and I never want to see you have a tear unless a bone's sticking out, or blood's gushing out of your body,''' Joeckel said. "So, it's hard to sit out with an invisible muscle strain."

Joeckel said because he is a rookie with limited NFL experience, playing Saturday is important. Bradley said he likely won't play as much as the rest of the starters, but that because of that, he could play longer than the other starters in the preseason finale Thursday at Atlanta.

"As many reps as I can get is going to be great for me," Joeckel said. "This is a little bit of a setback, but I don't think it will affect me too much as long as I take great reps in practice these next two weeks in practice. I think I'll be mentally and physically ready by Week 1.

"It's real tough. This is an important time for me as a rookie, and getting the experience is important. This is a small step back, but I've definitely got to step up and be on the grind these next few weeks."

Also on Thursday:

*Bradley said running back Maurice Jones-Drew likely will play more Saturday than last week against the Jets, when he played seven plays. "It would be nice to see him play a quarter or so," Bradley said.

*Bradley said tight end Isaiah Stanback (groin) and defensive tackle Brandon Deaderick (groin) are also expected to be game-time decisions Saturday, with cornerback Kevin Rutland (quadriceps), tight end Marcedes Lewis (calf), running back Justin Forsett (toe) cornerback Jeremy Harris (back) and quarterback Blaine Gabbert (back) have been ruled out. Offensive lineman Mark Asper (knee) is being evaluated and running back Jordan Todman (hamstring) will play.

*Bradley said a challenge this week is balancing the desire to use the game as a dress rehearsal – which is commonly the case in the third preseason game – and getting players on the "roster bubble" adequate repetitions to make decision. The team must trim the roster from 88 to 75 players by next Tuesday. "We're going to have to make some decisions and we understand that so it's a good week for a lot of our guys to get playing time."

*Bradley said he expects the team's starting unit to play into the third quarter Saturday. "After that, we will see how many plays they get," he said.

*Bradley said the team has not yet decided whether to have rookie Ace Sanders return punts on Saturday. The rookie fourth-round selection returned punts in the preseason opener, but has worked his way into the Jaguars' top three receiving rotation and did not return punts last week against the Jets. "That's in question right now," Bradley said. "We talked about it last night but he may not." Bradley said the team also has not decided whether to have rookie Tobais Palmer – who has fumbled a punt in each of the first two preseason games – return punts, and that the Jaguars could look at Jordan Shipley and Jeremy Ebert in the role Saturday. "We still are trying to make some decisions so some guys that may be back there playing," he said. "We're still evaluating if they're going to be part of the fifty three so they need to get reps to do that."

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