What DId Tom Brady Mean When He Said 'You're Next' to Lamar Jackson?
On the day that Tom Brady announced his short-lived retirement earlier this year, he sent a shoutout to Lamar Jackson via Instagram that said "[You're] next" with a heart emoji.
Ahead of tomorrow night's game between the Ravens and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Brady was asked yesterday about the meaning of his message to the Ravens quarterback.
"He's an amazing player and he challenges defense. He has a really unique skill set," Brady said. "His ability to improvise, make plays with his legs, extending plays. And they do a good job with that offense."
When asked in a follow-up question what compelled Brady to say "you're next," he replied: "I just think very highly of him. He's got a great future."
So it's still not clear what exactly Brady believes Jackson is next in line for, but Jackson knows what he'd like it to mean.
Thursday's game will be the second — and quite possibly final — meeting between Brady and Jackson. Jackson's Ravens defeated Brady's New England Patriots, 37-20, in 2019.
Jackson Is Having 'Next-Level' Season Running the Ball
Jackson's passing stats have dipped in recent weeks after his blistering start to the season (10 touchdowns passes in his first three games), but he continues to be in a league of his own among quarterbacks when it comes to running the ball.
Jackson is fifth in the league in rushing (510 yards) and first in yards per carry (7.9). He has the longest run from scrimmage this season (79 yards) and is second in runs of 10-plus yards (21).
"He's having a next-level rushing season," Gregg Rosenthal said on the “Around the NFL” podcast. "He might break his own record in terms of the most rushing yards by a quarterback ever."
Jackson set the record of 1,206 rushing yards in his 2019 unanimous MVP season. If he maintains his current pace and plays all 17 games this season, Jackson will finish with 1,239 yards.
Rosenthal and Marc Sessler both noted how Jackson's running ability was crucial in the Ravens' wins over the Browns and Cincinnati Bengals.
"In key spots in [the Browns] game, fourth-and-1 at the 50, if they didn't pick that up they're going to kill [John] Harbaugh. But it's Lamar, he picks it up," Rosenthal said. "Later on the drive that they ended up fumbling, it's third-and-2, he goes for 11, he [finishes] 10 for 59. That has been the equalizer for them."
Sessler said: "If you go back to that Bengals game two weeks ago, he put that game on his back at the end with his running ability. That was a Lamar Jackson finish right there."
Veterans Are Bolstering the Pass Rush
Calais Campbell (36), Justin Houston (33), and Jason Pierre-Paul (33) may be long in the tooth, but they aren't short on effectiveness.
With eight sacks between them this season, the three highly accomplished veterans have boosted the Ravens' pass rush. After finishing with 34 sacks in 2021 (tied for 22nd), the Ravens are sixth in the league this season with 20.
"This is the Ravens' first season under new Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald, and after a rough start — particularly in the secondary — the defense seems to be moving in the right direction," The Associated Press’ Noah Trister wrote. "Houston already has four sacks, just a half-sack shy of the linebacker's total from all of last season. And he's done it despite missing three straight games before Sunday with a groin injury.
"Campbell has three sacks, already doubling his total from last season. The 33-year-old Pierre-Paul has a sack as well since joining the team. When Campbell forced [Browns quarterback Jacoby] Brissett to fumble in the third quarter Sunday, the Ravens recovered at the Cleveland 25 and scored a touchdown soon thereafter."
Pierre-Paul, who played with the Buccaneers for four seasons (2018-2021), has extra motivation for tomorrow night's game in Tampa. He said he's going to “show them what they don’t have.”
"I'm going to be showcasing my talent as a Raven, and I'm going to show them why they chose me to be here, and get the job done," Pierre-Paul said. "I'm a great pass rusher, great run stopper. Somebody still believes in me – so at the end of the day, I've got to showcase my talent.
Inside linebacker Patrick Queen (3.5 sacks, eight quarterback hits), defensive lineman Justin Madubuike (2.5 sacks), and outside linebacker Odafe Oweh (one sack) — who is coming off a strong performance against the Browns — have also contributed to the improved pass rush, and outside linebackers Tyus Bowser and David Ojabo are likely to return soon.