Having played only nine games in his career, Luke Joeckel certainly doesn’t qualify as a veteran. But at least he doesn’t feel like a rookie any more.
“There’s definitely more of a comfort level, and it’s a whole lot better,” Joeckel said in a phone interview. “The rookie year was no fun. There’s definitely more of a comfort level the second year. You know what’s going on. I think that, with experience, is just going to keep building.”
The Jacksonville Jaguars made the Arlington High and Texas A&M product the second overall pick in 2013. Joeckel’s rookie season was all downhill from there.
He started four games at right tackle before the Jaguars traded left tackle Eugene Monroe. Joeckel didn’t even make it through one start at left tackle before fracturing his right ankle, and he finished his rookie season on injured reserve.
Joeckel has found a home this season, back at left tackle, where he started all 37 games in his three seasons in College Station. He won the Outland Trophy in 2012 as the nation’s top blocker.
“It’s helped a ton,” Joeckel said. “Going over to right tackle, it just flips everything around. It flips your technique around and all that kind of stuff. The speed of the game from college to the NFL is a tough step, and then to add a new position to that makes it a little bit tougher. It’s good to be back on the left side in my comfort zone.”
Joeckel has allowed 1.5 sacks this season, according to STATS, Inc. The Jaguars have allowed seven sacks the past two games combined after giving up 10 to Washington in Week 2.
“The biggest thing is just time and experience with each other,” Joeckel said. “We were still rotating guys around [against Washington] and still working on things, still trying to find the right five guys that jell together right. We’re a young group, but we’re doing a good job in meetings and practice and trying to put it out on tape. I think we’re doing a good job of communicating and working together as a group.”
Although Jacksonville has yet to post its first victory, the Jaguars’ future looks brighter with Blake Bortles at quarterback and a young core, including Joeckel, at key positions.
“It’s a process,” Joeckel said. “We’re building. We’re really close, and we’re young. We’ve just got to go out there and keep fighting. We’re striving to be our best every single day, and we’re not there yet. When all of us get to that point, we’ll win.”
Bullock kicking it
Randy Bullock’s interview with then-special teams coach Joe Marciano helped the kicker get drafted in the fifth round by the Houston Texans in 2012. Marciano asked Bullock how he would handle adversity, something Bullock hadn’t had while winning the Lou Groza Award at Texas A&M as the nation’s best kicker.
Bullock, without blinking an eye, said, “Coach, my dad died when I was 15. How much more adversity is there?”
Bullock was a freshman at Klein High School in Houston in 2004 when he and his older brother, Rhett, went on a hunting trip to South Texas with their father, Rich. On the final day of the trip, two days before Christmas, Rich died of a heart attack. He was 53.
So Bullock was hardly fazed when he spent his rookie season on injured reserve with a torn groin. He kept the faith when he missed four of his first five attempts last season, and even when he went 1 for 4 in a 27-24 loss to Indianapolis in Week 9.
“At times, I’ve experienced quite a bit of adversity, and I’ve been able to overcome,” Bullock said in a phone interview. “I’ve learned from my mistakes, whether it was on the field, off the field, something I could control or something I couldn’t control. I’ve just tried to take every day and continue to push forward.”
Bullock made his last 12 field goals of last season, and he is 8 for 9 this season. He made field goals of 50 and 55 yards last week in the Texans’ 23-17 victory over Buffalo.
“I have a lot of confidence in Randy,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said in a conference call. “At the end of the day, kicking in this league is hard. You’re only as good as your next kick, really. He has to keep it going.”
Bullock, 24, said he found his confidence in the off-season and built on it during training camp.
“I think I’m kicking well, and I’ve kicked with a lot of confidence and had success,” Bullock said. “It’s easy to be confident when you’re having success.”