(Sports Network) - The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be looking to turn the page on a turbulent week when they play host to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday night, in what will be the third warm-up effort both clubs.
The Bucs' rough stretch got started last Saturday, when starting quarterback Josh Freeman was likely lost for the remainder of the preseason with a fractured thumb on his throwing hand, suffered in a 20-15 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The former-first round pick is expected to be ready for Week 1 of the regular season, but until then the Bucs will have to yield to backups Josh Johnson, Rudy Carpenter and possibly recently re-signed rookie Jevan Snead.
More recently, head coach Raheem Morris has been embroiled in controversies involving strong safety Sabby Piscitelli and running back Derrick Ward, both of whom the 33-year-old head coach sought to criticize publicly.
Piscitelli complained, after losing his starting job to newcomer Sean Jones, that the competition for the position had not been a fair one. Piscitelli also complained about receiving word of his demotion via text message from a position coach. Morris countered by attacking Piscitelli's approach to the competition, saying "that's probably why he didn't get [the job.]"
Morris also took issue with Ward, who has been a disappointment in Tampa Bay since signing a sizeable contract there in the 2009 offseason. Of Ward, whose roster spot could be in jeopardy, Morris offered, "When you get a bit older in this league, especially as a running back, you have to realize that you need to come into camp at a lighter weight, not heavier."
Against that backdrop, the Jaguars have no problems at all, though Jack Del Rio's team has been less than impressive in one-point losses to the Eagles (28-27) and Dolphins (27-26).
In what will essentially serve as the Jags' final dress rehearsal before the season, Del Rio will be looking for more consistency out of quarterback David Garrard (11-of-18, 114 yards, 1 TD), who has been generally outplayed by backup and ex-Buccaneer Luke McCown (25-of-38, 396 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT) in the preseason.
The Jags have also mustered just 68 rushing yards in two preseason games combined, while giving up 294 on the ground. Hoping to improve the offensive rushing total on Saturday will be Kolby Smith, who was signed this week by the team after leading preseason rusher Deji Karim was knocked out with a thumb injury. Smith had been waived by the Broncos earlier this month.
Both teams' available starters are expected to receive their most extensive action of the summer on Saturday, in keeping with third-game-of-preseason tradition.
The Jaguars lead the all-time preseason series with the Buccaneers, 5-3, but were 24-23 home losers when the teams met prior to last season.