Starting Jobs on the Line

Saturday night's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is more of an audition for the remaining starting jobs rather than the final roster spots.

The third week of preseason is the one which most closely resembles that of a regular season contest with starters playing the longest out of the four-game schedule. Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio plans on playing much of his starters into the third period.

"The starters that are healthy will play into the third quarter," Del Rio said. Those that are not deemed healthy enough to go that long won't; we'll adjust where we need to."

A few of the starters who aren't healthy enough to go are running backs Maurice Jones-Drew and Deji Karim, and linebackers Daryl Smith and Kirk Morrison. This will allow for a great opportunity for running back Rashad Jennings to run with the first team. This also presents opportunities for the newly acquired Kolby Smith and undrafted rookie Chad Kackert.

"Kolby's a young player that Gene's (Smith) identified as a guy that can come in and fill a role for us and we'll give him a look as we do with everybody that comes in and joins our football team. We'll give him a look and will help us with depth as we finish up camp," Del Rio said.

Defensively, the absence of the pair of starting linebackers will mean more playing time for Tony Gilbert and undrafted rookies Kyle Bosworth and Jacob Cutrera. All three players have aspirations of earning a roster spot, but there will likely be just one position available.

Saturday's game will go a long way in deciding the starting positions at both safety and guard. Gerald Alexander, Sean Considine and Anthony Smith are all vying for starting jobs and Reggie Nelson is performing for a roster spot.

"We have several positional battles for starting spots up for grabs right now and we'd like to settle those, most notably the last guard spot and the safety spot," Del Rio reiterated. "Those are the two that have been discussed throughout camp, and we'd like to finish our evaluation after this ballgame and come to a conclusion and get ready, turn our attention to kind of finishing out the final preseason game which will come four days after this game Saturday night."

At guard, it's a three-for-one race with veterans Vince Manuwai, Kynan Forney and Justin Smiley. No player has much of a lead, but due to his affordable contract Kynan Forney has the best opportunity to make the roster, starter or not. Manuwai and Smiley are likely too expensive to keep as backups so if either doesn't win the starting job a pay cut will likely be called for.

The Jaguars likely have 19 of their 22 starting jobs settled and by Sunday they hope to have an answer on the other three. Once the starters are arranged, the team can move into preparation for their preseason finale which will determine the final jobs available on the back end of the roster.

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