It'll be last call for players to stake their claims to starting jobs and roster spots. Certainly, one defensive end job will be up for grabs Thursday night when the Jaguars play the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the final game of the preseason.
The Jaguars official depth chart lists Paul Spicer as number one at defensive right end, while Rob Meier is atop the left end spot. Spicer had been the starter at left defensive end until the Jaguars cut Hugh Douglas on Monday. At that time, Spicer moved to right end, the premier pass-rush position, and Meier moved in at left end, considered to be best-suited for run-stuffers.
"We have to decide some position battles and we have to decide some roster spots," head coach Jack Del Rio said of the importance of Thursday's game.
The final game of the preseason traditionally sees teams pull their starters from the field early, as coaches want their top players healthy and rested for the regular season opener. So the spotlight will clearly shine on those "bubble" players who are trying to capture the coach's favor.
Who are those Jaguars players considered to be on the cut "bubble?" Here's a look at the Jaguars roster drama.
At wide receiver, first-round pick Reggie Williams will get his second consecutive start. That would suggest veteran Troy Edwards has reason for concern.
Injuries at running back have lessened the competition there. Rookie Rich Alexis may be competing for a spot on the practice squad.
Tight end was a hot spot until Kyle Brady suffered an injury to his middle finger. Brady underwent surgery on that finger this afternoon and will probably be lost to the team through the first two games of the regular season. That means the Jaguars could go heavy at tight end until Brady returns to health. Veteran Chris Luzar, however, is clearly a "bubble" player.
At defensive tackle, fourth-round pick Anthony Maddox would seem to be facing an uphill battle to make the active roster. Willie Blade can lock up a backup job.
Del Rio said he may hold Spicer – he sustained a leg contusion in the win over Green Bay – out of action Thursday. Del Rio will give Meier, Brandon Green, Lionel Barnes, Bobby McCray and Courtland Bullard major playing time, as the Jaguars conduct an intense and last-ditch tryout at the troubled defensive end position.
Defensive end has undergone a major upheaval over the last two weeks, as the Jaguars released, first, Tony Brackens, then Douglas. Douglas signed on with the Philadelphia Eagles within hours of leaving Jacksonville, which he continued to bad-mouth.
"And the best thing is that I definitely won't be hearing any more 'Sweet Home Alabama.' That's what they played in Jacksonville before the home games. Hey, I thought we were in Florida. It's going to be different. It's going to be great," Douglas told a Philly sports writer.
"He got back to where his heart is and I wish him the best," said Del Rio, who chose to focus his attention on his own defense.
And it's a defense that would seem to be strongest at linebacker, where Tommy Hendricks is still pushing for playing time. Del Rio confirmed that second-round pick Daryl Smith will get his second consecutive start at outside linebacker, and popular opinion is that Smith has stepped into the starting lineup for good.
Dewayne Washington appears to have a lock on the starting right cornerback job. The issue at cornerback would seem to involve veteran Kiwaukee Thomas vs. rookies Chris Thompson and David Richardson. Thomas is clearly a "bubble" player.
There's a definite logjam at safety, with six capable guys battling for four or five roster spots. But the real drama is for the starting strong safety job. Though Deke Cooper is listed on the team's official depth chart as a free safety, it's not a secret that he's very capable of playing strong safety and has been very impressive this summer. Donovin Darius holds the starting strong safety job.
Then there's kicker, which offers the number one drama. Rookie Josh Scobee will get one more shot to win the job, and he'll probably need an encore performance of his three-for-three night against the Packers last Friday. Should Scobee falter, veteran Steve Christie is waiting in the wings.