A major concern has been the now 3rd year former first round pick Luke Joeckel. The highly touted and drafted tackle from Texas A&M had a solid college career ending it with winning the Nation’s best Offensive Lineman, and 1st team All-American honors. Thought by most to be the first overall pick in the draft, Joeckel fell to the Jaguars and seemed to be the obvious pick for a team in desperate need of offensive line help. Since being drafted, Joeckel has appeared to this point to be a bust. At times showing promise, but for the most part nothing to hang your hat on. Not what was expected from what was imagined to be the left book end on the line for years to come.
When it comes to the physical aspect of the game, Joeckel appears to have all the measurables to be a top tackle in the NFL. Standing at 6’6’’ and weighing in at 306 pounds with long arms, he is a large and long presence on the back side of the line. His 40 yard dash was nothing to gawk over being a 5.25, but that doesn't negate the fact that he is a great athlete. Playing at Texas A&M, who runs a spread style offense based off the zone running game (the same as the Jaguars running scheme) he shouldn’t have any problems playing in our system…..Right? Not quite! While they both might run a zone scheme, the Jaguars have run more of an outside zone style compared to Texas A&M who was more based around the inside zone play. Some might say, “Same thing, zone is zone!”. Wrong! While some of the skills and rules might be the same, the attack points and landmarks are different. The inside zone doesn’t require the lineman to play in as much space. It is based on more confined spaces and many of the climb blocks are inside the box. The outside zone/stretch zone plays that fans of the Jaguars have become accustomed to seeing utilizes more reach blocks and wider space for the lineman to work in. It demands a lot out of these big bodies, asking them to move their massive 6’5’’+ and 300+ pound frames in the open field working up to block a linebacker and at times safeties or even corners. As a High School Football Coach I get the ability to talk to other coaches, some very good coaches at my level, in college, and the NFL level. Most if not all offensive line coaches have told me that it is easier to teach the outside zone before the inside zone. It is easier to teach a kid to block in space than it is the other way around. That being said this could have a very big impact on Joeckel’s development in the NFL. I don’t want to make it seem like I know more about the game or the different schemes, but I do have a little more I guess you could say “inside information” from opportunities afforded to me from very well respected coaches around the country.
Aside from the physical aspect, there is still the mental aspect and if Joeckel is able to play for us with a little grooming. In my opinion it is a big HELL YES! After watching and trying to break down the film from some past games, there are definitely times where you watch a play and wonder “WHY?”, “What the hell is going on, and how do you miss that block?”, and “Why would we draft this kid so high?”. I have asked myself some of these same questions. There are also times where he shows some amazing skill sets and promise for him to be what we want him to be. Could it be that the expectations for the kid might be a little lofty considering the change in scheme and speed of the game? Especially for a Left Tackle!?!? It also could all boil down to the fact this will be his first full offseason where he can get in the meeting and weight room, and work to become the Pro-Bowl player we want to see every Sunday.
At the end of the day, the 23 year old Left Tackle has all the ability in the world. He has the intangibles to be a great pro and a staple on the left side of the line for many years. It is my belief that next year we will see what we’ve been expecting to see the past year and a half. With the addition of Doug Marrone as our offensive line coach, Luke Joeckel has been given the tools/guide in Marrone to set him on the way. Coming into next year there doesn’t seem to be any reason we shouldn’t expect Joeckel to be poised and ready for a breakout season and to quiet all of the critics.
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