Tennessee has had one of the leading rushing offenses in the NFL while Derrick Henry has averaged 1,420 yards per season since becoming a full-time starter in 2018.
The Titans‘ rushing success doesn’t figure to change — especially with the addition of third-round draft choice Tyjae Spears of Tulane as a change-of-pace runner.
New Orleans, on the other hand, made one of the most significant offseason moves in the NFL by signing former Raiders quarterback Derek Carr to try to upgrade an offense that was 16th in passing and 19th overall last season.
“I don’t think there’s any question that this team runs a lot of their offense through the running game, particularly Derrick Henry,” Saints coach Dennis Allen said. “Obviously with Tyjae Spears being there now, they’ve got a couple of different runners that they can utilize. They have home-run hitters running the ball.
“You have to be able to stop the run and play-action game and, hopefully, get them in some longer yardage situations.”
The Titans ranked 30th in passing offense last season and tried to improve that ranking by signing wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, a five-time Pro Bowl selection. The running game and quarterback Ryan Tannehill will be operating behind a rebuilt offensive line.
“In essence, they’ve got five new guys playing in different spots on their offensive line,” Allen said.
Carr played just one series in the preseason, giving Tennessee virtually no indication of what the Saints‘ offense will look like with him instead of Andy Dalton or Jameis Winston behind center.
“It’s Week 1 and you have no clue,” Titans linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair said. “You have to know yourself and stay true to your rules. You have to be ready for anything.”
The uncertainty is even greater because of the absence of Saints all-purpose running back Alvin Kamara, who is serving a three-game suspension to start the season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
New Orleans signed former Lions running back Jamaal Williams, the reigning NFL rushing touchdown leader, and signed tight ends Foster Moreau and Jimmy Graham. Former All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas is healthy after playing in just 10 games combined in the past three seasons because of injuries.
“We’ll have to be ready for a lot of different things,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “There will be things that we will have seen from tape and there will be things that we haven’t seen.”
Tennessee had the No. 1-ranked rushing defense last season.
“The team that controls the line of scrimmage is probably going to have a pretty good chance of success in this game,” Allen said.
Both teams were a disappointing 7-10 last season but are optimistic of returning to playoff-contender status.
Saints starting cornerback Marshon Lattimore (knee), who missed the last two preseason games, was limited in practice Wednesday. Titans starting linebacker Harold Landry III (abdomen) also was limited.
– Field Level Media
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