What to watch: Thursday night’s games

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Preseason action returns Thursday night with two games.  Florio said I would lose interest doing these previews, and I can’t let him get the satisfaction of being right.  Maybe that was the idea.  Damn.

Patriots @ Bucs

Tom Brady, Chad Ochocinco, and the first team Patriots offense gets its first action of the preseason. We think. … With Matt Light not likely to play, the Patriots can see how first round pick Nate Solder looks protecting Brady’s blind side. … There are a lot of jobs still available on New England’s defensive line.  The starters are still undecided and some recent pickups could get cut.

Patriots rookie running back Stevan Ridley gets to make his case for a big role again. He looked great last week. … Ryan Mallett may play second behind Tom Brady. The Patriots want to get a long look at the rookie.  Backup QB Brian Hoyer will probably get more playing time next week.

Tampa didn’t get a great test from Kansas City last week.  New England should provide that. … Once again, we’re going to watch how Tampa’s rookie defensive ends and middle linebacker Mason Foster look. … Dezmon Briscoe is trying to nail down a possible starting receiver job opposite Mike Williams. … Gerald McCoy has reportedly looked great in camp. This will be his preseason debut for the year. Tampa is expecting a big jump from last year’s No. 3 overall pick.

Eagles at Steelers

Right tackle King Dunlap, a third-stringer in Philly, gets to protect Michael Vick’s blind side.  Perhaps the Eagles will take Vick out early if it’s not going well. … There is a position battle at center as well between Jamaal Jackson and Jason Kelce. … If rookie running back Dion Lewis is going to have a role on this team, he needs to have a big preseason. … The Eagles still don’t know what they have with rookie starting middle linebacker Casey Matthews.  They hope to find out more. … DeSean Jackson makes his preseason debut.

Steelers backup running back Isaac Redman has enjoyed a big camp. A strong preseason could earn him more consistent touches in the regular season. … The Steelers shaky tackles have a tough test against a deep Eagles defensive front. … Four Steelers cornerbacks will miss the game. … Receiver Antonio Brown can try to earn a big role early in the year with Emmanuel Sanders hurt.