Derek Carr is set to debut with the Saints against Ryan Tannehill and the Titans

Thu, Sep 7, 2023
NFL News (AP)

Derek Carr is set to debut with the Saints against Ryan Tannehill and the Titans

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Changing teams was a boon to the career of Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Derek Carr hopes to follow suit with the Saints.

The Carr era begins in New Orleans on Sunday when the Saints host Tennessee in a Week 1 matchup of teams seeking a return to playoff contention after each went 7-10 last season.

Carr, who spent his first nine seasons with the Raiders, was New Orleans' top target during free agency. He has described changing teams at this point in his career as emotionally challenging on the one hand, but rejuvenating on the other.

"You fall in love with one place. You give them all that you have for almost a decade and now all of a sudden it's gone," Carr said. "I'm just excited, man, to start over.

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"I'm not trying to prove anybody wrong," the four-time Pro Bowl QB continued, adding that he's more focused on proving Saints coach Dennis Allen and general manager Mickey Loomis right.

Tannehill spent his first six seasons playing for mostly mediocre Miami teams. The Dolphins made the playoffs once with Tannehill in 2016, losing in the wild card round. In four seasons since Tannehill joined Tennessee, the Titans have been to the playoffs three times, going as far as the AFC championship game in 2019.

"Everything in that situation is a new experience, right? So you're learning a lot along the way, learning a lot of new teammates. Could be a new offense, new city," Tannehill recalled. "I came in and just tried to do my job each and every day and then prepare myself to go win games."

The Raiders made the playoffs just twice and never won a postseason game with Carr. Still, his signing had a ripple effect on New Orleans' roster. It spurred Michael Thomas to agree to a one-year deal to return. The former two-time All-Pro receiver and NFL record holder for catches in a season is trying to prove he can make it through a season healthy after struggling to do so for the past three years.

Tight end Jimmy Graham, who was out of football last season, rejoined the Saints, with whom he spent his first five seasons. Also signing as a free agent was tight end Foster Moreau, a New Orleans native and former LSU player who was Carr's teammate with the Raiders the past four years.

"I'm really excited to be here with Derek," Moreau said. "He's been a really good player in this league for a long time and he can command an offense."

Carr will have the letter "C" on his jersey for his maiden regular season game with the Saints. He was among seven Saints captains selected by teammates earlier this week.

Carr said of going from a place where he was no longer wanted to a place where he was immediately voted into a leadership role "means the world to me."


New Orleans has three new starters on its defensive line and the new-look unit gets a tough early test against Titans running back Derrick Henry, whose 1,538 yards rushing ranked second in the NFL last season.

Saints defensive tackle Khalen Saunders, who played previously for Kansas City, said tackling Henry is difficult once the 6-foot-3, 247-pound back gets going.

"If you get him before his momentum starts, that's where you have a little success," Saunders said. "We're going to have to be active up front as stay persistent the whole game to make sure he doesn't break one of those long ones."


Tennessee had the NFL's stingiest defense against the run but the league's worst unit defending the pass last season. The Titans allowed 274.8 yards per game playing without Pro Bowl outside linebacker Harold Landry. He's on the initial injury report with an abdominal injury, but the Titans added outside linebacker Arden Key, inside linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair and cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting to replace players who'd missed numerous games with injuries.


Saints running back Alvin Kamara will be serving the first of a three-game suspension in connection with a 2022 fight in Las Vegas. New Orleans brought in free agent Jamaal Williams, who scored a career-high 17 TDs with Detroit last season, to help shore up the backfield. The Saints also drafted Kendre Miller out of TCU, but he's missed practice with a hamstring injury this week.

The Saints are 3-7 without Kamara since drafting him out of Tennessee in 2017.


The opener will be Tannehill's first chance to throw to three-time All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The Titans signed Hopkins just before training camp to bolster a passing attack that was 30th in the NFL last season.

Tannehill said he's had fun getting to know Hopkins during camp and the preseason. He credited Hopkins with working hard to build trust and chemistry with him.

"I'm loving what I'm seeing so far," Tannehill said. "It's just a matter of doing it on Sundays."


The Saints unexpectedly jettisoned kicker Wil Lutz and punter Blake Gillikin in favor of a pair of rookies. Blake Grupe takes over on field goals and Lou Hedley, a 30-year-old Australian, is the new punter.

Grupe spent four seasons at Arkansas State and one at Notre Dame. Hedley played for the Miami Hurricanes last year. Both were undrafted free agents.


AP Sports Writer Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.



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