Up: Receiving Corps
Veteran wide receiver Michael Thomas, who missed 14 games last season due to injury, came out hot in his first game back. On the offense's first drive, Thomas made an impressive catch down the sideline over Titans cornerback Kristian Fulton. There have been many questions about how the long-time Saints receiver would look coming back from injury, but Thomas was busy on Sunday consistently getting open. The former First-Team All-Pro finished the day with five receptions for 61 yards.
DEREK CARR DIME TO MICHAEL THOMAS pic.twitter.com/vDIT2O3tnr— JPAFootball (@jasrifootball) September 10, 2023
The Saints' pair of second-year receivers Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed took over in the second half. Olave caught eight passes for 112 yards while Shaheed caught five passes for 89 yards and the game's lone touchdown. After not seeing much of the team’s pass catchers in the preseason, the receiving corps proved their worth combining for 262 of Derek Carr’s 305 passing yards.
Last season’s defense struggled to get pressure on the quarterback and create turnovers. That was not the case against Ryan Tannehill and the Titans. Bryan Bresee, Carl Granderson, and Cameron Jordan created pressure off the line each getting credit for the three sacks on Tannehill. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore looked to form when lined up against superstar receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Alontae Taylor, who recently switched to the slot, held his own in his first snaps in the new position. After Titans running back Derrick Henry started the game out hot averaging more than five yards a carry, the defense made adjustments at halftime dropping the 6’3” 247-pound veteran back’s yards per carry average down to 4.2. If the defense can continue to get pressure and force turnovers all season, the Saints are guaranteed to be in every game they play.
Up: Blake Grupe
After the Saints traded veteran kicker Wil Lutz to Denver there were many questions about whether rookie Blake Grupe’s training camp performance would translate to the in-game scenario. Grupe put the questions to rest after going perfect on the day making all three of his field goals and making the PAT after the touchdown.
Grupe from 52?— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) September 10, 2023
3/3 on the day, tied up at 9. pic.twitter.com/EnWwi6IEEv
Down: Trevor Penning
When the Saints drafted Trevor Penning, they knew he’d be a project player, but the Titans took advantage of the young tackle's flaws. Edge rusher Arden Key got the best of Penning getting credit for two sacks on quarterback Derek Carr. Carr felt the pressure from his blind side all game which was the cause for most of the offense's issues.
Trevor Penning gets beat by Arden Key for a sack. These are the growing pains you can expect early on for the second-year left tackle.— Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncan_) September 10, 2023
Penning started to pick it up in the second half, but that's majority thanks to adjustments.
Saints did what we asked for in the fourth quarter. They adjusted protection to help Trevor Penning, buying Derek Carr time to climb the pocket and connect on some gutsy throws deep downfield. Hope for a quicker start next week, but what's most important is that they start 1-0.— John Sigler (@john_siglerr) September 10, 2023
Down: Run Offense
Star running back Alvin Kamara is suspended for the first three games of the season and rookie running back Kendre Miller was out with a hamstring injury, thus leaving newly signed Jamaal Williams as the team’s main ball carrier for Sunday. Williams struggled to find open lanes on his 18 carries finishing the day with 45 yards on 2.5 yards per carry. Swiss army knife Taysom Hill didn’t carry the ball until the second half, accounting for four yards on three carries. Having a stable run game is vital for the success of a successful offense as it can take pressure off the quarterback and open up the playbook.