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Jaguars-Bucs joint practices: What to watch


JACKSONVILLE – They're free, they're open and they're expected to be packed.

They're also going to be held in front of ESPN cameras. That means if you can take the heat – and if you registered before they reached capacity – the Jaguars' joint practices with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Wednesday and Thursday could be memorable and pretty fun.

But what will really get done in the coming days? What can we learn from the Jaguars working two days with another NFL team?

The best answer: some things, though not everything.

That's because the joint practices aren't regular-season games, and neither is Saturday's preseason home opener against the Buccaneers at EverBank Field. There will be unknowns about this young team until the games really count.

At the same time, three opportunities to work against the Buccaneers could provide a better gauge for where this team stands than a week of regular practice. There figures to be more contact among linemen than would be seen in a normal practice, and the intensity level of team sessions figures to be … well, a bit more intense.

ESPN is expected to broadcast Thursday's practice with Ron Jaworski, John Buccigross, Josina Anderson and Sal Paolantonio on hand. The practices are open to people with tickets, for which registration was required on The practices are at capacity with registration now closed.

With that in mind, here are areas to watch for the Jaguars in the coming few days:

1.Blake Bortles.The third-year quarterback looked very good against the Jets in the preseason opener and he has the look of a player making a Year Three jump. It has been much-discussed in recent weeks that Bortles is more of a gamer than a practice guy, but with Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston on site, this week's practices could have more of a game feel than normal. Keep an eye on the Jaguars' No. 5 – as if you wouldn't, anyway.

2.Jalen Ramsey.The rookie cornerback missed the Jets game and hasn't worked full in full pads in a week. That was precautionary after the No. 5 overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft missed most of the offseason with a small meniscus tear. Ramsey has looked NFL-ready with some expected rookie errors thus far in training camp. His first work against an NFL opponent will be well worth watching.

3.Myles Jack.The rookie linebacker appears to be playing faster by the week. He has been working with the second-team defense and figures to continue to do so. But when he's on the field you can't help notice his speed and suddenness. Three days of heightened work will be valuable for Jack three weeks into his NFL career.

4.Brandon Linder's adjustment.The third-year veteran missed the Jets game with a groin issue. He's back practicing this week, making the work against the Buccaneers his first against another team since he transitioned from guard to center in the offseason.

5.Can the Jags run?They ran well against the Jets, and it continues to be an area of emphasis. There figures to be more contact than in a normal practice this week. The Jaguars want to keep seeing Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon run effectively, and they want to keep being able to dictate when they do so.

6.Luke Joeckel/Kelvin Beachum.Until Beachum is on the field working full, this battle for left tackle won't have played out – or really even begun. It seems doubtful Beachum works extensively this week as the team remains cautious in his return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, so a steady diet of Joeckel at left tackle seems likely. Stay tuned.

7.The middle level of the defense.This area gave up back-to-back long passes against the Jets. It has given up too many long passes too often in recent seasons. Will Jack eventually be a solution? We'll see, but we'll also keep watching.

8.Dante Fowler Jr./pass rush.The front-line pass rush registered a sack against the Jets and has been effective throughout camp. That has been particularly true of second-year Leo end Dante Fowler Jr., who was understandably hyped up before the Jets game – the first of his NFL career. The No. 3 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft pretty much always plays with energy – sometimes so much the coaches have to slow him down in practice – so keep an eye on him when practicing against another team.

9.Allen Robinson.The third-year wide receiver been beastly so far during training camp. He was beastly against the Jets. At some point during practice this week or in the game Saturday it seems safe to assume he'll be beastly again. It seems to be his norm.

10.Tashuan Gipson.Like Ramsey, he missed the preseason opener. Like Ramsey, he's expected to have a major effect on the Jaguars' pass coverage. He has a knack for the ball and this will be his first work in a Jaguars uniform against an opponent. Keep an eye on No. 39.

11.Keeping their cool.Skirmishes were the norm at a Patriots-Bears practice this week. There always is potential for extracurricular activity at these things. They rarely amount to much, but they sometimes provide decent theatre.

12.It's real –or at least it's pretty close. Training-camp and preseason practices by design have a tamer feel than years past with coaches limiting contact to prevent injury. Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said Tuesday that efforts will be made to ensure every period isn't high intensity this week, but joint practices? With a game Saturday? At some point this week, this is going to feel pretty close to real. Enjoy.

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