NFL preseason: Jaguars take care of Buccaneers in exhibition finale
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars are not quite ready to roll.
Final roster cuts are looming, and several young players competing for jobs have given coach Doug Marrone and his staff a lot to think about.
“The next 48 hours we’re going to have to make some tough decisions,” Marrone said after fourth-stringer Tim Cook ran for two touchdowns to help the Jaguars close the preseason with a 25-10 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night.
“Some of these young guys have played really well, and tonight was a good example,” Marrone added. “They made a couple plays and we were able to come back and win.”
Cook scored on runs of 1 and 3 yards. Carroll Phillips picked up a fumble by rookie quarterback Austin Allen and ran it back 28 yards for another TD as Jacksonville used a 19-point third-quarter to turn a 10-3 halftime deficit into a 12-point lead.
Regulars for both teams sat out the finale Thursday night in mostly empty Raymond James Stadium. A total of 34 players did not dress for the Jaguars, including every starter on offense and defense.
Tampa Bay’s starters had the night off, too, as did suspended quarterback Jameis Winston, who must sit out the first three games of the regular season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
Winston had a sharp preseason, completing 73 percent of his passes for 388 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He will be eligible to return to practice and play in Week 4, when Tampa Bay travels to Chicago.
“”That’s the most challenging part,” said Winston, who’ll miss the Sept. 9 opener at New Orleans, as well as home games against defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
“I believe these guys will go out and execute, and we’re going to get some wins,” Winston added. “I can’t wait to get back.”
Bucs coach Kirk Koetter said Winston has handled training camp and the impending suspension about as well as could have been expected.
“It’s a situation that was handed down, and he’s done what we’ve asked him to do,” Koetter said. “And his play on the field, the most important thing of all is play on the field, was excellent.”
Ryan Fitzpatrick will fill in as the starter, with Ryan Griffin backing up the 14th-year pro, one of just four players in NFL history who’ve thrown TD passes for seven franchises.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, will head into their season opener against the New York Giants with heightened expectations after going 10-6, winning the AFC South and coming within one victory of reaching the Super Bowl last winter.
Griffin, a fifth-year pro who has yet to take a snap in a regular-season game, completed 17 of 27 passes for 151 yards and one TD in the opening half for Tampa Bay. Rookie Justin Watson scored the Bucs’ lone touchdown on a 2-yard reception in the first quarter.
Kessler completed 4 of 6 passes for 32 yards for the Jaguars. Lee went 11 of 22 for 164 yards and no interceptions. Meanwhile, Jacksonville rushed for 151 yards, with Brandon Wilds gaining 88 yards on 17 carries and Cook finishing with 51 yards on 16 attempts.
The Bucs drafted RB Ronald Jones II in the second round in hopes of sparking an anemic rushing attack. However, the rookie wasn’t very productive in the preseason. He carried 10 times for 4 yards Thursday night, finishing the preseason with 22 yards on 28 attempts. Jones also had one reception for 37 yards in four games. Koetter conceded there’s concern about not being able to get Jones going in games. “I can’t give you a good answer for it,” Koetter said, adding he has seen flashes from Jones in practice.
Players on both sidelines remained standing for the national anthem after observing a moment of silence in remembrance of the victims of last weekend’s shooting during a video game tournament shooting in Jacksonville.
Jaguars: None announced.
Buccaneers: CB Amari Coleman left in the second half and was being evaluated for a concussion.
Jaguars: Season opener at New York Giants on Sept. 9
Buccaneers: Begin three-game stretch without Winston, opening season at New Orleans on Sept. 9.
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