Offensive tackle Luke Joeckel's rookie season came to a premature end in 2013 due to an ankle injury, but the Jacksonville Jaguars star is on pace to make a triumphant return in 2014.
According to John Oehser of Jaguars.com, Joeckel has been working out regularly and is in the process of working his way back from a broken right ankle. If things continue to progress as expected, then Joeckel may be ready for organized team activities, and all signs point to him making it back in time for training camp.
Joeckel, 22, missed all but four and a quarter games in 2013, and while sitting on the sidelines has been difficult, he is excited about what awaits him, per Oehser:
I'm already feeling ready to get back into a season-- I'm definitely ready to get back into it ... I feel good. I'm coming back strong. Sitting around for 12 weeks and not being able to block-- that was my offseason, so now I'm trying to get back training and trying to get ready for OTAs.
Joeckel was the No. 2 overall selection in last year's draft out of Texas A&M, and he was expected to develop into a cornerstone offensive lineman for the Jags. The chances of that happening still appear to be quite high, but missing such a large chunk of his rookie campaign wasn't part of the plan from Joeckel's perspective:
I guess my career couldn't have started off any worse. You go into it with a ton of excitement and nervousness. No one ever wants their season ended short by an injury, especially your rookie year. This might be the worst it can get. Now, I've just got to get better. It's only going to get better from here.
What are your career expectations for Joeckel?
The Jaguars were a work in progress with or without Joeckel in the lineup last season, and they ultimately finished with a record of 4-12. Jacksonville holds the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, and many seem to believe that the organization will select a quarterback for Joeckel to protect.
It is blatantly obvious that the Jags can't take the next step with Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne under center, so taking a franchise signal-caller makes sense, especially since this looks to be a quarterback-rich class.
Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles out of Central Florida are possibilities, but the most intriguing option may be Joeckel's former Texas A&M teammate, Johnny Manziel.
Manziel's stock has seemingly risen since the end of the college football season, and Ross Jones of FoxSports.com reports that Joeckel has offered rave reviews of Johnny Football to Jags general manager David Caldwell:
Caldwell on Manziel: "His competitiveness is very intriguing." Says Luke Joeckel speaks very high of him.— Ross Jones (@RossJonesFOX) February 20, 2014
Taking Manziel would obviously be an organizational decision, but already having his left tackle in place would seem to work in Manziel's favor.
Whatever the case, Joeckel would really benefit from the Jaguars finding a star quarterback. It isn't necessary in terms of Joeckel becoming an elite tackle; however, it would undoubtedly aid in his development.
If the Jags do bring in a rookie signal-caller, then protecting him will be a top priority, and early returns suggest that Joeckel will be ready to do precisely that.
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