Three things to watch for in Tampa Bay’s preseason game against the New England Patriots on Thursday. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.
Gerald McCoy's return. The defensive tackle hasn’t played in a game since suffering an arm injury in Week 14 of his rookie season. That came just as McCoy was starting to emerge as a force. He’s been limited by a shoulder injury in training camp and that kept him out of the first preseason game. He's expected to play against New England. The Bucs have invested four early draft picks on defensive linemen the past two years and are waiting to see results. McCoy has the most upside of all four of those defensive linemen, and the Bucs need him healthy and on the field so he can become the anchor of their defensive line.
Mason Foster's progress. The rookie middle linebacker got off to a good start in last week’s preseason opener. If he does it again, Foster probably will secure the starting job. The plan for early in the season is to take Foster off the field when the Bucs go to their nickel defense. But coach Raheem Morris said he might let Foster get some work in passing situations against the Patriots.
The pass rush. This was an area of weakness last season, but the Bucs showed lots of promise when they recorded six sacks in their preseason opener against Kansas City. Of course, the Chiefs weren’t playing a lot of their regulars. The Patriots should provide a better test for rookie defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers.