The Bucs are going… somewhere in 2019. The league announced the five teams yesterday that will be playing a home game abroad next season. The Bucs were one of them, as is the agreed upon stipulation to hosting a Super Bowl. Once a team puts in a successful Super Bowl bid, which the Bucs did for Super Bowl LV in 2021, they have to take part in the NFL's International Series and give up one home game within five years. The program is meant to encourage an international audience to discover American football. Four of the five games will be played in London and one will be played in Mexico City. The other four teams are the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers, the Oakland Raiders and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The last time the Bucs went abroad was in 2011 when they played the Chicago Bears in London's Wembley Stadium. They could be heading back across the pond, or take part in the NFL's expansion of the International Series into Mexico City. The Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs were supposed to play in Mexico City's Estadio Azteca before poor field conditions forced them to relocate to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum this season on Monday Night Football.
Dates, times and opponents will be announced this coming spring.
The Bucs face the last of their AFC North opponents this week in Baltimore. The Ravens have had an interesting quarterback situation this season with starter Joe Flacco suffering a hip injury five weeks ago. Rookie Lamar Jackson has started the past four weeks in his place, going 3-1 with a drastically different style of play than Flacco. Jackson is extremely mobile and the team has been averaging over 200 yards on the ground since he's been under center. He drew a couple of different comparisons on Wednesday. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul compared him to a recently retired quarterback, famous for his scrambling antics. That quarterback was Michael Vick, who played as a member of the Atlanta Falcons in the Bucs division for a number of years. Head Coach Dirk Koetter opted for a comparison to a quarterback currently in the Bucs' division.
"Cam Newton," Koetter said of who Jackson reminds him of. "I think Cam Newton obvious – in our [division]. They've taken it a little bit more to an extreme, but over the last few years off and on in this division, Cam Newton's done all this. He's run a little bit more earlier this year. I haven't seen him since our game a couple weeks ago. Baltimore's taking advantage of what this guy brings to the table. Since he's been in there, he's done a nice job."
Preparing for Jackson will be different from preparing for Newton, for instance. He runs more than Newton. In four games, he's gained 336 yards on the ground along with two rushing touchdowns on 67 carries. That's more than twice as many carries as any other quarterbacks in that span. And it's not like he isn't passing, either. He has 600 yards and three passing touchdowns with three interceptions over the past four weeks.
"A big challenge. This quarterback has excellent escapability," Defensive Coordinator Mark Duffner said of his defense facing Jackson. "Disciplined rush lanes are going to be paramount. He's an excellent scrambler. They've got quite a bit of perimeter movement for him in the passing game, whether it be bootlegs or sprints, so they get him on the edge. He's covering a lot of ground. He's not just in one spot as a quarterback, so that's a huge challenge for not only our front, but our whole defense."
It's a challenge that defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is looking forward to, though.
"I think in this league you prepare yourself each and every week it's going to be different preparation," said Pierre-Paul. "This week is a different preparation. Obviously, he's a rookie and he just come in and he's doing great things by being a starter now. He's a running quarterback and I know a lot about running quarterbacks because I've faced them a lot. I'm going to be looking forward to playing him. Looking forward to running out there and playing their option stuff."
For more on facing Jackson, head on over to see what Scott Smith has to say here.
Speaking of Pierre-Paul, Duffner pled his case for Pro Bowl in the presser yesterday.
"I think it's hard to not mention Jason Pierre-Paul and the kind of season he's had for us," Duffner said. "He made some plays in the game the other day not just on the defensive line but on the perimeter; perimeter plays and chase-downs and excellent pursuit plays. This guy has really been a very, very strong contributor to our defense."
Pierre-Paul was happy to hear the things Duffner said about him but of course, downplayed it.
"I think it's pretty cool that he thinks highly of me," Pierre-Paul said. "I appreciate everything he says, but I'm going to continue being me and keep playing some ball."
Yup, sounds like JPP.
View photos from the Buccaneers' practice Wednesday at AdventHealth Training Center.