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Joeckel's offseason well under way

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JACKSONVILLE – He's bigger, and feels stronger.

Those are the first two things Luke Joeckel mentioned when sitting down for an interview recently, and he knows they're huge parts of his offseason story.

The Jaguars' third-year left tackle said he knows those things need to be huge parts of his story right now – along with needing to improve, to be more consistent … all of the things he's working on this offseason.

"The biggest thing is strength and weight," Joeckel said. "That was evident coming out of the season. That's been the main thing, the main focus.

"It's been going really well. Having a healthy offseason has been huge."

Joeckel, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, spoke last week at EverBank Field. The offseason conditioning program begins in two weeks, but to look at – and listen to – Joeckel is to know the process has long since begun. He has gained 10-to-12 pounds since last season, and it's easy to see. It's good weight, he said – weight added correctly. He feels it when he works out, when he trains.

A long rehabilitation last offseason from a fractured ankle is behind him. So is the 2014 season, his first as a full-time NFL left tackle.

That's another thing Joeckel mentioned quickly, that he wasn't thrilled with how he played last season. He said, too, that he played better at the end of the season than at the beginning.

He said he knows he must still improve. Mostly, he said he must be more consistent.

He's confident that will happen quickly, and that's what the offseason work has been about. He couldn't work out last offseason, not in a way to gain weight or strength. Now he can, and he believes that matters very much.

"I definitely can see growth this offseason," Joeckel said. "Going into last season, I didn't feel like I had gotten stronger, gotten bigger and that I was ready to go out and play. This offseason, I can see it in the weight room, and I'm excited to get into OTAs and training camp and see where I am."

Joeckel's offseason story isn't about excuses.

That's another thing he mentioned quickly. Yes, he said, there were reasons he didn't play as well last season as he hoped. But he said none were excuses, and he said should have played better.

Still, the injury that cost him last offseason? The months in early 2014 on a scooter?

Those were real issues that kept Joeckel from being where he wanted to be entering last season. He was limited throughout the conditioning program and organized team activities last offseason. And that limitation was about more than on-field work.

Because of the injury, he did little weight training until about a month before the season. That meant not being able to gain strength and size needed to play NFL left tackle.

Joeckel said at one point while injured early in 2014 he was down to 280 pounds. He played last season around 300 and plans to play around 310-to-315 this season.

"A guy like me, I have to work to keep weight on," Joeckel said. "To be at that 310-315, I really have to focus on the diet, the training, the weight room. I don't think I'm a natural 310-to-315 guy. I have to work to get there.

"Coming in and rehabbing, you're not able to get in that same strength program."

After a few weeks off early this offseason, Joeckel said he has worked out consistently, productively. The weight gain is everywhere, and that's a good thing.

"Upper body was definitely a big thing, building more mass in the chest," he said. "But I always saw myself as having a big base, butt and thighs … all that stuff. Being on a scooter for 12 weeks, you sort of lose that a little bit, so build that up to where it was has been a main focus.

"I just feel stronger. I feel bigger. That's something that's definitely going to help me this season."

Joeckel is aware of the expectations.

That's yet another thing he said – that yes, there is an added element of scrutiny and pressure because of his draft selection, because of the position he plays.

And yes, there are times he is aware of it.

"That's been tough at times, ignoring everything and just going to play ball, but that's something you have to do," he said.

He said he wants to fulfill those expectations. No question. At the same time, you can't play that way, worrying about outside stuff.

"You can't take expectations into a game," Joeckel said. "No one in the league wins every single matchup. The best guys are the ones who come back and win the next play and who show that sort of consistency."

And if there was a word Joeckel used more than any other last week, that was it.

He said he knows he must improve. That's the reason for the focus on weight gain, and the offseason film work. He said the entire line must improve, too, and that's the reason the entire group has worked together on fundamentals – punches, footwork, hand placement – on its own after offseason workouts the last few months. But Joeckel said for him it all goes back to being more consistent, which means doing the things he does well a lot more often.

"I can see that I can do it, but it's having that consistency," he said. "I'm not content with the way I played at all, and I think it's going to be a whole lot better season."

To look at – and to listen to – him is to know the process has long since begun.

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