JACKSONVILLE – This whole "transition-to-the-NFL" thing is going pretty much as expected for Luke Joeckel.
He is playing well, according to Jaguars coaches and personnel officials, and his transition from college left tackle to NFL right tackle has been largely uneventful. All signs point to the No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft being very good very quickly.
Joeckel said if there are areas in which he's struggling, they're in the details.
"It's going pretty good, but there are definitely some habits I need to break," Joeckel said Thursday following a two-and-half-hour practice at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields adjacent to EverBank Field.
Joeckel said his biggest focus is using his hands better in pass protection.
NFL defensive ends and pass rushers will tell you hand placement and techniques are the key to pressuring quarterbacks at the professional level, and Joeckel said Thursday getting used to the jump in skill in that area in the NFL is his biggest adjustment thus far.
Eugene Monroe, the Jaguars' left tackle and a five-year veteran, said that's the biggest adjustment not just for Joeckel, but most pass protectors.
"You have to realize that your hands and feet have to work independently," Monroe said. "You can be in the greatest position in the world, but if you're not cognizant of how you're using your hands – and more so, how the defender is going to attack your hands – you can get yourself into trouble."
Monroe said he and Joeckel talked about using hands in pass protection after practice Thursday.
"If you watch a defensive line drill in practice, most of the drills their running through it's, 'hands, hands, hands,''' Monroe said. "That's half the battle and footwork is the other half. He'll continue to learn and get adjusted to it. He's doing a good job."
Joeckel said he feels confident in his footwork, but "but the biggest difference between the NFL and college football is just the hands."
"Defenders use their hands so much better here," Joeckel said. "They're better at their craft. To be able to block the guys I'm going against, it's something I need to learn how to do. I have to learn every trick to block those guys.
"Getting my feet there is one of the biggest things, but just as big is hand placement, being able to play games with them and not giving them the same punch every time."
Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell, asked Thursday during his “Twitter” takeover about Joeckel, replied, "haven't even noticed him, which is a great thing."
Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley had a similar sentiment Monday.
"He's quiet," Bradley said. "He's a second pick overall and he's the quietest camp for a guy of that stature. He's doing a really good job. He's picking up the offense. I think he's getting used to our training camp feel and the intensity and the competition every day."
Also on Thursday:
*With wide receiver a focus early in camp, Bradley said young players such as rookie Ace Sanders and first-year veteran Mike Brown have taken advantage of the absence of second-year veteran Justin Blackmon (groin). "The challenge for those guys would be to do it every day, not to show us three or four good days and then kind of fade away," Bradley said. "That's the challenge they're facing, so that's something that we will watch closely."
*Running back Justin Forsett sustained a toe sprain early in the team's "live" period on Wednesday. He had been working behind starter Maurice Jones-Drew, and had been getting extensive work with the Jaguars working Jones-Drew for a just a few reps in each drill while he returns from a foot injury.
*If Forsett misses time, look for third-team running back Jordan Todman to get increased repetitions with the first and second unit. Second-year veteran Jonathan Grimes and rookie free agent De'Leon Eskridge are also working at running back.
*Guard Uche Nwaneri and tight end Marcedes Lewis each missed practice for the first time in training camp, each getting a "veterans" day off. Bradley said such days off are opportunities for players down the depth chart. "Sometimes coaches, they trust players and when a guy takes a day off like this, now the coaches put the other guys in, it gives us a chance and the scouts to look at some of our younger players and free agent-type players," Bradley said. "It'll be a good evaluation tool."
*With quarterback Blaine Gabbert taking just three repetitions in team drills Thursday, Chad Henne got the majority of the reps at the position for a second consecutive day. Henne had an interception early in team drills, with a pass bouncing off Cecil Shorts III to cornerback Alan Ball. Bradley discussed the consistency in camp of Gabbert and Henne, saying, "Blaine, I think after we looked at the film and calculated he was nine out of ten (Wednesday). Chad, he's had some days like that and then he had a day where something like this (the interception) happens. The whole idea of practice is, it's a precision league. What I've learned over the years is you have to be so precise on not only your alignments, but in your assignments and how you execute. That's what training camp is teaching our guys."
*Bradley said players such as defensive tackle Roy Miller, defensive end Jason Babin and running back Maurice Jones-Drew – players who entered camp with injury issues – are increasing their repetitions this week.