Spotlight-shy Luke Joeckel ready to take on Chiefs
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Unlike the quarterback he was helping protect at this time a year ago at Texas A&M, Luke Joeckel doesn't crave the media spotlight or enjoy big cities. He claims to not even have a Twitter account, a rarity in this day and age for someone who will turn 22 in November.
So his regular-season debut Sunday for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who play in the NFL's fourth-smallest television market, represents more of a perfectly quiet storm than a perfect storm. It should be the opposite of last Saturday in College Station, where Joeckel flew in to watch his twin brother Matt start against Rice in place of the suspended Johnny Manziel before the Heisman Trophy winner threw three touchdown passes and rubbed more than a few people the wrong way during the second half.
When asked Wednesday by FOX Sports Florida about the conduct of his former teammate since their last game together eight months ago, Joeckel replied, "I haven't been down there for really any of this. You're going to have to ask someone down there. I mean, he's a good guy. He was a good teammate while I was there. He's a great football player. So I'm sure he'll be all right."
Joeckel comes to the Jaguars with none of the drama of Manziel and none of the nationwide curiosity of the No. 2 pick in 2012, Robert Griffin III. Despite missing almost two weeks of the preseason with a hip flexor injury, his coaches and teammates are expressing confidence that he'll make an immediate impact at right tackle.
But the game against the Kansas City Chiefs is not without a subplot involving Joeckel. In the days leading up to draft night in April, all indications were that the Chiefs would use the first overall selection on the 6-foot-6, 306-pounder who allowed only two sacks over his final two seasons with the Aggies. Instead, they took a tackle from a smaller school, Eric Fisher of Central Michigan.
To say Joeckel has fully let bygones be bygones would be a mistake, although he holds no grudge toward Fisher personally.
"There's a little bit of a chip," he said. "I'm ready to go. I'm glad I'm here. Now we've just got to go get a win."
Both Joeckel and Fisher will start for their new teams. But while the Jaguars and Chiefs tied for the worst record in the league last year at 2-14, neither of their highly valued rookies is holding down the spot at left tackle. Joeckel needed to learn a new hand placement and foot stagger because the Jaguars already had Eugene Monroe, a first-round pick by them in 2009, and Fisher has had to do likewise due to the presence of six-year veteran Branden Albert, a college teammate of Monroe's.
Since returning from his injury to start in the Jaguars' final two preseason games, Joeckel has regained the sense of ease he had following his transition from the left side.
"I'm feeling pretty much 100 percent comfortable out of my right tackle set," he said. "I'm feeling good and ready to go. I learned a lot in the preseason. I learned the speed of the game is a lot faster."
But going against the Atlanta Falcons' backups a week ago could be nothing compared to the assignment of trying to block Chiefs outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, both of whom made the Pro Bowl last season.
"With him being a rookie, I'm sure they'll throw some things in there and try to confuse him," said Uche Nwaneri, who will start next to Joeckel at right guard. "But he understands all the concepts."
"If they (Joeckel and Monroe) stick to their techniques and stick to their teachings, they should be in good shape," Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. "Most of the time when you have some troubles or you struggle is when you try to do too much."
Joeckel heads a group of seven draft picks who made the Jaguars' final 53-man roster that includes three other starters – defensive backs Johnathan Cyprien and Dwayne Gratz and wide receiver Ace Sanders, who will open in place of the suspended Justin Blackmon.
One advantage Joeckel should have is that Monroe, Nwaneri and center Brad Meester have 23 previous years of NFL experience between them. Meester will make his 75th consecutive start and 194th overall against the Chiefs.
"The guys were great in camp and preseason, all that kind of stuff, just to see how they approach every game," he said. "They've been a huge help overall."
Joeckel, Fisher and Philadelphia's Lane Johnson represent the first trio of tackles since the advent of the common draft in 1967 to be selected among the first four picks. Away from the field, the pairing of Joeckel and Jacksonville seems like a match made in heaven.
"It's a spread-out town," he said. "There's not really a big downtown or anything like that, a crazy downtown. Being from Texas, I never really saw that. So that fits me well. And I'm not a big media guy. I don't like to be out in front of the cameras very often. I'm just a normal offensive lineman that doesn't want his name called out too much."
You can follow Ken Hornack on Twitter @HornackFSFla or email
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