JACKSONVILLE — The Bucs have their second preseason game here Thursday against the Jaguars, and here are five things to keep an eye on as Tampa Bay moves closer to paring its roster from 90 players to 53 by Sept. 3.
1. AVOIDING BIG PLAYS ON DEFENSE
The Jaguars won 31-24 at New England last week and did so with big play after big play. Rookie WR Keelan Cole had a 97-yard touchdown catch, RB Corey Grant had a 79-yard touchdown run and WR Dede Westbrook had a 42-yard touchdown reception. Nearly half their 447 yards came on those three plays.
The Jaguars gave up six different drives of 57-plus yards to the Patriots, so the Bucs should be able to score more than the 12 points they mustered at Cincinnati.
2. REDEMPTION FOR BACKUP WRS
It was a rough preseason opener against the Bengals for Bucs WRs Freddie Martino and Josh Huff — Martino had six targets and only one catch, while Huff had three targets and only one catch.
"They would probably admit it wasn't up to their standard," offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. "The last couple days, they've had better days, after the game when they each had a couple of drops."
That battle for the fifth receiver job remains open, with Bernard Reedy (three catches, 24 yards) helping his chances last week.
3. PICK UP SOME INTERCEPTIONS
The Bucs defense had four interceptions in last year's preseason against Jacksonville — two by Vernon Hargreaves. And none of those were from Blake Bortles, who had two early TDs in a 31-24 Bucs win. A pick for Ryan Smith would be huge, though he had his hands full with Jags receivers in two practices this week.
4. KEEP THOSE DEFENSIVE ENDS OFF THE QBS
The big matchup in joint practices this week were Bucs OTs Donovan Smith and Demar Dotson against Jaguars DEs Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler. Ngakoue, popular this week as a Guy The Bucs Could Have Drafted Instead of Roberto Aguayo, had a sack against New England last week and will be tough. So will Fowler, who was humbled by Dotson last year.
With QB Ryan Griffin sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Bucs need to keep their remaining quarterbacks healthy. Expect Jameis Winston and starters to play the first half, with Ryan Fitzpatrick and rookie Sefo Liufau splitting the second half.
5. IF POSSIBLE, DON'T MISS ANY FIELD GOALS
Roberto Aguayo is gone, waived and claimed by the Bears, and the hope in such a move is to build momentum for Nick Folk, who now almost certainly has the job. Aguayo missed two field goals in Jacksonville last year, but Folk can validate the Bucs' decision by simply hitting his kicks. He was good from 45 yards on his only attempt.
The Bucs signed Zach Hocker as a second kicker, but the focus will be on giving Folk opportunities to show he's the right guy.
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.