It didn't start out ideally for the Jaguars defense in Tampa, but the unit more than made up for it the rest of the way, capping the night with a sack and interception to seal the victory.
The defense allowed a 53-yard reception on the first play from scrimmage as the Bucs took advantage of Jaguars cornerback Derek Cox slipping on the play. The defense buckled down and held the Bucs to a 51-yard field goal by Connor Barth.
The Bucs managed only 138 yards after the first play and finished with only nine first downs and 42 rushing yards. Not bad considering the Jaguars played without their three starting linebackers.
It was only fitting the defense would play a role in making sure the Jaguars earned their first victory of the preseason. With 2:18 remaining in the game, rookie linebacker Jacob Cutrera recorded the game's only sack and safety Tyron Brackenridge followed with an interception on the next play.
"I see the commitment," Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said. "We have a stout front, we have some talent in our front. We went without our three starting linebackers tonight and I was proud of the way the backups went out there and competed."
The healthy starters played into the third quarter and allowed only one of five Bucs possessions to go more than 10 plays. For the game, the Bucs finished 2 of 11 on third down.
"I believe that if you do things the right way then good things will happen to you," Del Rio said. "Our guys have been working extremely hard. They have completely one-hundred percent bought into embracing our team values. They are working their tails off and when you do that as a group of men you get better. We will keep sharpening up. It's coming at a good time because we are two weeks away from our opener."
**Scobee continues to roll**
The Jaguars have relied heavily on kicker Josh Scobee in the preseason and he is happy to have the work. Scobee has hit on all seven of his field goal attempts in the preseason and leads the team with 28 points.
Scobee was successful on field goals of 26, 35, 43 and 48 yards on Saturday against the Bucs along with two touchbacks on four kickoffs. He has hit on three field goals of 40-plus yards in the preseason.
**Nelson gets start**
2007 first-round draft pick Reggie Nelson showed his commitment this offseason by returning early before the conditioning program officially kicked off. Nelson has added muscle to his frame and his work is beginning to pay off. He started at free safety for the first time this preseason on Saturday and was credited with three tackles.
Coach Del Rio has made it well-known there is a battle for the starting safety jobs between a host of players.
"Starting (Saturday) doesn't mean anything to tell you the truth," Nelson said. "I just need to keep doing the little things right and at the end of the preseason it will be up to the coaching staff to make that decision."
Nelson credits extra time in the film room and additional work with the coaching staff for his improved play.
"Just trying to learn the little things about our defense, get that down pat and just play," Nelson said.
**Seven players sit out**
The Jaguars had seven players not dressed for the game: Linebacker Daryl Smith, linebacker Kirk Morrison, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, linebacker Justin Durant, running back Deji Karim, defensive tackle D'Anthony Smith and center John Estes.
**Del Rio praises Bolen and Matthews**
Head coach Jack Del Rio singled out fullback Brock Bolen and wide receiver John Matthews in his post-game press conference, and for good reason. The first-year pros are continuing to make plays as they battle for a roster spot.
Bolen led the team with seven rushes for 26 yards and added 40 yards on four receptions. He spent the majority of his rookie season on the club's practice squad and has impressed with the staff in the preseason with his play. Matthews leads the team with two touchdown receptions including a diving 27-yard grab against the Bucs from Luke McCown.
"John Matthews and Brock Bolen, they're not guys that are the headlining guys," Del Rio said. "They're guys that are just going about their business, doing things, making plays for our football team. We have to take a good hard look at those two young men. I really like how the each of them has worked. I like the way they are contributing to our to our football team. They're doing things the right way. I think that both of those men deserve a good hard look and we are going to make sure we do that as an organization."
Matthews spent the majority of 2009 on the Colts practice squad and was claimed off waivers by the Jaguars prior to the start of this year's training camp.
**McCown faces former team**
Jaguars quarterback Luke McCown wasted little time reintroducing himself to the Bucs fans as he tossed a 27-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter on his second play from scrimmage.
McCown spent four seasons with the Bucs from 2005-08 before he was traded to the Jaguars prior to the 2009 regular season. He has played well through three preseason games, throwing for 472 yards and five touchdowns on 34 of 52 passing.
"It was a lot of fun being back here, seeing a lot of all faces," McCown said. "I got a lot of great memories here. I was here for four years. All three of my boys were born here. There's a lot of great people in this organization, and they did a lot for me in my career, and I'm very appreciative of that It was neat playing against a defense that I feel like I know so well."
**Bigger role for Jennings**
The Jaguars were without the services of Pro Bowl running back Maurice Jones-Drew on Saturday so the bulk of the work went to second-year pro Rashad Jennings.
Jennings finished with nine yards on four carries and also added four receptions for 36 yards. It could be a sign of things to come as the Jaguars try to incorporate him more into the offense.
"It does excite me. What excites me even more is knowing that I'm earning it," Jennings said. "I know Jack (Del Rio) is not the kind of guy that is going to give anybody anything. I am going to take that and continue to build and get better. I don't want to let anyone down in this organization. I put a lot of pressure on myself."
The Jaguars are hoping the emergence of Jennings will ease the load on Jones-Drew this season. Jones-Drew had 312 carries in 2009 and touched the ball 365 times.
"When I talked to Coach (Earnest) Byner the first time I met him, he told me he knew I was a guy that liked to work hard and he wanted me to continue to do that," Jennings said. "He wanted me to prepare every single day like I was a starter. This is what you prepare for."
Jennings says Jaguars strength and conditioning coach Luke Richesson has a saying that he takes to heart each day; "There are no backups on this team, just the next guy to go in."
"That is the way you have to prepare for it," Jennings said.
**Britton sees first action**
The Jaguars offense had the starting two tackles in the lineup for the first time this preseason as right tackle Eben Britton made his first appearance in the preseason. Britton played into the third quarter with the majority of the starters.
Quarterback David Garrard finished 24 of 31 passing for 211 yards for an 81.5 passer rating …
The Jaguars outgained the Bucs 396 to 191 and controlled the ball for 39 minutes compared to the Bucs' 21 minutes … 17 different players had receptions for the Jaguars with wide receiver Mike Thomas leading the way with five catches for 30 yards. Thomas was targeted eight times … Punter Adam Podlesh finished with a 44.7-yard net average on three punts … Rookie Scotty McGee continues to impress as he took the opening kickoff 47 yards to set up the club's first score. McGee had a 28.5-yard average on four kickoff returns … The Jaguars had three drives of 10-plus plays … Russell Allen, Tony Gilbert and Rod Wilson started at linebacker.