There is not a better feeling if you are a fan (or even coach or front office) than going into the fourth preseason game with a limited amount of injuries , a limited amount of questions regarding your starters, and a plentiful amount of attention on your depth. It means that other than some minor stress for the small amount of 1’s or 2’s that will play with regards to their health, you have a pretty good idea of what’s under the hood on your machine and simply want to see some good football. It also means you are part of a rather small contingency these days with the rash of injuries and yet-to-returns for some major names around the league this preseason.
While the Bucs entertaining the Jaguars tomorrow night at Raymond James brings about very little in major storylines for most involved, we are still keeping our eyes on a couple of big names from their preps’ days here in the Bay Area. We are speaking of Lakewood’s Dante Fowler Jr. and the hometown Hillsborough Terrier, Mr. Nigel Harris at the linebacker spot.
Fowler Jr, who is suspended for the Jags’ first game of the season at the New York Giants, finally saw his first action of the season versus the Falcons in a 17-6 win for the Jaguars. Fowler Jr. has caused quite the stir during the offseason, but looks to build on what was a rather big turnaround compared to his first couple seasons. Fowler Jr. is listed as the backup to Yannick Ngakoue, who took the world by storm at the weak side defensive end spot. Fowler Jr. is in a contract year however, and will want to make splashes every time he touches the field, so we will certainly keep our eyes peeled for his production on Thursday.
Harris is looking to solidify his spot on the depth chart as the number three at the will linebacker position, but as we’ve seen him throughout his career at Hillsborough and for the hometown Bulls in college, he can play all three positions if you need him to do so. Harris has recorded 8 tackles thus far this preseason and figures to play a big role in this final game, a game that is almost exclusively reserved for the players needing to get one more week of important reps and film for potential suitors down the road.
In addition to the featured players we are watching tomorrow night, splitting hairs of course, we are watching the Bucs to see if rookie Ronald Jones II can get some steam going and build some confidence behind a very good OL for the Bucs this preseason thus far. And as always, we are watching the secondary play to make sure the communication and execution is on point, which is an absolute must in a division like the NFC South.
Jacksonville leads the preseason series 7-5, while maintaining a 4-2 edge in the regular season. Tampa Bay won this contest 12-8 following a week of practice in Jacksonville, and even though the fourth game does have the tendency to be less-than-desirable in terms of name-recognition, we would like to offer you this fun little incentive to check this game out. There are seven in-state schools represented by 22 players on tomorrow night’s camp rosters (FSU, UF, Miami, Stetson, FIU, UCF, and USF), while 14 of those 22 players played their preps’ ball in the Sunshine State. “Toe meets leather” as the Hall of Famer Gene Deckerhoff would say at 7:30pm. For the full listing of the players we alluded to, see below:
QB James Winston -TB
CB Javien Elliot (Panama City Rutherford) -TB
WR Bobo Wilson (Columbus) -TB
WR Rashad Greene (Saint Thomas Aquinas) -Jax
CB Jalen Ramsey -Jax
LB Telvin Smith -Jax
LS Garrison Sanborn (Jesuit) -TB
CB Vernon Hargreaves III (Wharton) -TB
DL Dante Fowler Jr. (Lakewood) -Jax
LS Drew Ferris -TB
DL Taven Bryant -Jax
TE DeAndre Goolsby -Jax
DL Lerentee McCray (Dunnellon) -Jax
CB AJ Bouye -Jax
QB Blake Bortles (Oviedo) -Jax
CB Josh Robinson (Plantation) -TB
CB Dee Delaney -Jax
OL Brandon Linder (Saint Thomas Aquinas) -Jax
OL KC McDermott (Palm Beach Central) -Jax
LB Nigel Harris (Hillsborough) -TB
DL Jason Pierre-Paul (Deerfield Beach) -TB
CB Bryce Canady (Jacksonville Paxon) -Jax
LB Donald Payne
Doug Pugh, BCP Contributor