Luke Joeckel didn't want trade, still sees himself as Jags' left tackle

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Luke Joeckel never thought about asking for a trade.

Not when the Jacksonville Jaguars signed former Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Kelvin Beachum, nor when general manager Dave Caldwell told him the team wasn’t going to pick up his fifth-year option.

"I love Jacksonville," Joeckel said. "I’d love to stay here. It all comes down to my play. I’m only focused on myself and me playing football, getting better at left tackle. That’s all I’m focused on."

The thing is, the Jaguars aren’t sure if Joeckel is a left tackle any more.

Caldwell said Beachum and Joeckel would compete for the starting spot. Beachum is still recovering from ACL surgery and won’t participate in OTAs or minicamp, but should be cleared by training camp. That means Joeckel is getting nearly all of the reps at that spot now, but he’s also taking snaps at left guard.

The feeling inside the building is if Beachum wins the left tackle job, then Joeckel will be moved to left guard, a position that’s currently being manned by free agent signee Mackenzy Bernadeau.

Monday was the first time in his life Joeckel took snaps at guard, and he said it certainly was different.

"You’re not on that island [like you are at tackle]," he said. "I messed around with the guards. It’s easier. It’s good."

Even so, Joeckel said he still considers himself a left tackle.

"You know, it’s a little new, but we’ve got to be able to play every position," Joeckel said. "Every single guy tries to think that way. Got to just get better at every single thing. Get better at guard, whatever I’m doing, whatever they ask me to do."

Joeckel has been a starter since the day he was drafted second overall in 2013. He started the first four games of his rookie season at right tackle before being moved to left tackle after the team traded Eugene Monroe. He suffered a season-ending fractured ankle in his first start at that spot.

Joeckel started every game in 2014 and 14 games in 2015, missing two with an ankle injury. However, he has struggled, particularly against quicker rushers. Pro Football Focus tagged Joeckel with allowing eight sacks in 2014, but he did play better in 2015. The team says he allowed seven sacks, including five in the season finale against Houston.

Beachum has started 39 games in four seasons with Pittsburgh, including 34 at left tackle in the last three seasons. Caldwell specifically mentioned Beachum’s athleticism and how well he works against speed-rushers on the edge, when asked what he likes about the former 2012 seventh-round draft pick.

Despite that, Caldwell told ESPN that the franchise hasn’t lost confidence in Joeckel, though Joeckel said he’s approaching this offseason as if they have.

"I don’t know how they’re really feeling," Joeckel said. "Dave has always been honest with me and all that kind of stuff. He’s given me forewarning on different things and has always been honest with me, but I’m going to earn their confidence. That’s all that matters.

"I’m going to go play consistent, go play to the best of my ability and [earn] their belief in me."