FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots had a strong night rushing the passer against Tampa Bay, recording a combined four sacks of starter Josh Freeman and backup Mike Glennon.
Brandon Spikes got things going right from the start, coming through the middle on the Buccaneers’ first play and taking down Freeman for a 4-yard loss. The Bucs weren’t able to recover and went three-and-out.
On their second possession, Chandler Jones got in on the fun with a sack on the third play, and Spikes struck again on third down, forcing Tampa Bay to punt.
Rob Ninkovich was credited with the fourth, his coming on third down of Glennon’s first drive, early in the second quarter.
“It felt great” to get so much pressure, Jones said. “The first snap from scrimmage was a sack from Brandon Spikes. It was great — they called a blitz and he came in free. It’s just good seeing the quarterback having a hard trying to complete passes because he’s getting so much pressure.”
Tampa Bay was without Pro Bowl left guard Carl Nicks, and top running back Doug Martin was injured on the first play of its second possession, so things may have been in the Patriots’ advantage. But pressuring the quarterback consistently has been a problem for this defense for a few seasons; seeing it Friday night gives hope that perhaps the adjustments have been made for the pass rush to return this year.
Getting there will take “just everyone doing their job,” Jones said. “I say that every time I have an interview; you guys probably get tired of hearing me. But to be honest with you, that’s the answer I would give you if anyone asked me that question: if you’re doing your job, week in and week out, you should be good.”
Friday’s game was an example of that, Jones noted.
“Guys were just making plays left and right. Spikes came in early, Ninkovich . . . [Vince] Wilfork’s always taking those double teams and makes it easier for me, makes it easier for the rest of our line,” he said. “Everyone just going hard.”
The front seven generating pressure can only help the back end of the defense — if the corners and safeties don’t have to cover as long, it cuts down on the chance they’ll get beat or the coverage will break down.
McCourty still out
Safety Devin McCourty and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard once again highlighted the list of Patriots who were not in uniform on Friday night for the team’s second preseason game.
McCourty, who has not missed a day of practice, remains in a red no-contact jersey because of offseason shoulder surgery, so it is in the best interest of his health — and the best interest of the New England secondary — that he not play in a game situation yet.
Dennard (left leg) was in uniform during practices, but did not take part in full-team work, only stretching and some individual drills.
Other Patriots not in uniform on Friday night: tight end Daniel Fells, cornerback Ras-I Dowling, defensive lineman Jermaine Cunningham, and offensive linemen Marcus Cannon, Dan Connolly, and Markus Zusevics.
Rob Gronkowski, Armond Armstead, and Mark Harrison, all of whom are still on the physically unable to perform list, also were not in uniform.
Tampa Bay sat Nicks (toe), though the guard had practiced all week. Coach Greg Schiano told the team website before the game that Nicks had not suffered a setback and the team was sitting him with an eye toward getting him extended action in their third preseason game in Miami.
There was yet another former Rutgers player on the Patriots’ sideline Friday night, but he wasn’t in uniform: Steve Belichick, the older son of coach Bill Belichick, was a long snapper for the Scarlet Knights in 2011, his final year at the school and also what turned out to be the final season of Schiano’s tenure at the school before he was hired by the Buccaneers.
Steve Belichick is now a coaching assistant with the Patriots.
“He was good because he was mature and he wasn’t a kid, so he was actually part of the leadership of our team, which I enjoyed,” Schiano said of coaching Belichick. “He helped me. On game day, he helped me, signaling in different things for me, as I was calling the defense back then.
“It was a really good experience and I hope he had a good experience.”
Asked if Schiano saw coaching potential in the younger Belichick, he said, “Yeah. I’d say it’s in the blood, right?”
Versatility in focus
Rookie Jamie Collins, the Patriots’ first pick in the draft, has been seeing snaps all over the field, and with the top defense, though he stayed in long after that unit came out of the game against the Eagles. Against the Buccaneers, Collins again saw a lot of action, registering six tackles, including one for a loss.
This week Collins made it clear he’s focused on one thing: getting comfortable enough with his assignments so he can just react.
“My role, and taking that playbook, coming out here and playing fast,” Collins said of lessons from his first training camp. “That’s the main thing — learning in the classroom and coming out [to the field], playing fast.”
He has found himself in coverage, which the 6-foot-3-inch Mississippi native said is “pretty cool. It’s not bad at all.”
Moment of silence
As part of their pre-game “Thank You” to fans, the Patriots honored 90 local police officers, pairing them with 90 fans to greet players as they ran onto the field for introductions. There was also a moment of silence for slain MIT officer Sean Collier, who was allegedly killed by the two men allegedly responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing. Collier was to be a Patriots season-ticket holder for the first time in the 2013 season . . . Eduardo Martinez, the Make-A-Wish child who played catch with Brady and Tim Tebow on Thursday and also got to score a rushing “touchdown” on the final play of the day’s practice, was the team’s honorary captain for the game . . . UFC president Dana White, whose organization has a big event at TD Garden on Saturday night, was on the sidelines before the game wearing a Jones jersey. Jones’s older brother, Jon, is the current UFC light heavyweight champion.
Michael Vega of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.