Preseason Week 4: Roster spots open

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JACKSONVILLE – Thursday matters.

Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone on Tuesday explained why.

"There are spots open," he said shortly before the team's practice at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex.

That makes Preseason Week 4 important – even though most of the Jaguars' starters and front-line players won't play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa in the 2018 preseason finale Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

The game matters very much to players trying to make the regular-season 53-man roster – a group that Marrone takes seriously.

A few Jaguars front-line players will play Thursday. Marrone on Tuesday said that group includes fourth-year defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., who missed Preseason Week 1 with a shoulder issue and Preseason Week 2 because of a suspension. He also will be suspended for the regular-season opener against the New York Giants on September 9, so getting Fowler snaps makes sense.

As for how many snaps that might be, Marrone declined comment.

"He's going to play – that's my plan," Marrone said. "If someone's playing, I never really tell them how much they're playing. What happens is they get that pitch count in their minds where all of a sudden they're like, 'I've got two more plays left …' Maybe they take it a little easy and someone rolls into them. That's just how I feel."

Marrone said coaches likely will tell players who aren't playing their status on Wednesday. Players who aren't playing will make the trip to Tampa and warm up for the game.

Marrone also on Tuesday said backup Cody Kessler will play.

All NFL teams must trim their roster from 90 players to 53 by Saturday at 4 p.m. Eastern time, and Marrone said decisions remain to be made in that area.

"Things can change," he said. "Things can change whether it be at practice. Things can change whether it be in a game. Things can change afterwards – whatever the market dictates. The worst thing you can do from a players' standpoint is sit back there and try to count the numbers and think who's going to make it and who's not.

"It's going to affect your performance and you're not going to play well and you really don't know what's going to happen because there are positions that are open."

Marrone, who played in four games with the Miami Dolphins in 1987 and one with the New Orleans Saints in 1989, on Tuesday discussed in detail the seriousness with which he takes the process.

"For me, this is probably the worst part of the job," Marrone said. "I would say so. This week's always tough for me."

Marrone said he meets with every player released before they leave the facility for the final time.

"It's not very long, and it's a tough meeting," he said. "I appreciated the two or three words coaches would say [when he was released from teams]. I can pretty much remember everyone. I have an appreciation of what they've done, and it's just tough."

Also:

*Nose tackle Eli Ankou (knee) and defensive end Dawuane Smoot both practiced for a second consecutive day Tuesday after missing the first three preseason games. Both were on the roster last season and likely will play Thursday. "If they can play, they'll play," Marrone said.

*Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (pectoral) remained out of practice Tuesday, as did center Brandon Linder (knee) and cornerback C.J. Reavis (concussion protocol).

*Safety Tashaun Gipson and tight end Ben Koyack (knee) returned to practice.

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