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Open Locker Room: Joeckel optimistic


JACKSONVILLE – The news got better at left tackle Thursday.

That means the Jaguars could have their starting offensive line together on Sunday for a fifth consecutive game.

Luke Joeckel, the Jaguars' starting left tackle in the first eight games of the season, was expected to practice in a non-contact basis Thursday afternoon after missing Wednesday with a concussion. Joeckel on Thursday said he is optimistic about playing Sunday.

"I'm ready to go," Joeckel said Thursday as the Jaguars (1-7) prepared to play the Cincinnati Bengals (4-2-1) at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, Sunday at 1 p.m.

"We just have to go through the NFL protocol. I want to get back."

Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley on Wednesday had expressed optimism that Joeckel could return Sunday. Although he has been cleared to practice Thursday, he must do so on a non-contact basis under the NFL's concussion protocol.

Joeckel can work individual drills in practice Thursday, then work full in team drills on Friday.

"I felt like I was symptom-free early, and I'm ready to get back," Joeckel said. "We just have to go through the protocol. Hopefully, it goes well today, I get a full practice tomorrow and on Sunday I'll be ready to go."

Bradley on Wednesday said Josh Wells likely will start Sunday if Joeckel can't play. Wells, a free agent rookie from James Madison, played in Joeckel's place Sunday and Bradley said he played well, allowing one sack. That was Wells' first extensive regular-season playing NFL time at left tackle.

Joeckel sustained the concussion on an early field-goal attempt Sunday against Miami. He said it was his first concussion.

I just took a knee or thigh to the top of the head," he said, adding. "I don't remember much after it. My vision was definitely screwed up and that kind of stuff. It was my first one, and I didn't think it was that serious, but when you get one you know right away there's something wrong."

If Joeckel plays, the Jaguars will have their starting line of right tackle Austin Pasztor, rookie right guard Brandon Linder, rookie center Luke Bowanko, left guard Zane Beadles and Joeckel for a fifth consecutive games. Beadles, Linder and Joeckel have started the first eight games of the season, and Bowanko has started the last six.

Pasztor has started the last four since returning from a fractured hand sustained in preseason.

The offensive line has improved significantly since the group began starting together. After rushing for more than 85 yards just once in the first six games of the season, the Jaguars have rushed for 185 and 176 yards in the last two games, respectively.

The Jaguars' line also has improved its sack numbers in recent weeks. After allowing 20 sacks in the first four games of the season, the line has allowed 11 in the last four games.

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