OAKLAND (AP) — Derek Carr has followed the Houston Texans closely since their start as an NFL franchise.
Carr’s big brother, David, was the first Texans draft pick back in 2002, and the younger Carr spent much of the first five years of the franchise hanging around the team.
He went to the games and practices, played catch with the mascot and hung around with NFL stars such as Andre Johnson.
Those will all be distant memories come Sunday when Carr takes on his brother’s old team in the home opener for the Oakland Raiders.
“These guys are trying to rip my head off,” Carr said. “I’m not thinking about being a kid watching those games. They’re coming after me.”
The Texans have had a close eye on the younger Carr for some time now. Johnson joined the Texans in their second year and built a relationship with Derek, giving him advice and watching his middle school games.
“It just shows you how old I’m getting,” Johnson said. “It should be fun. I can’t wait to get to talk to him.”
Derek followed in David’s path by starting the opening game of his rookie season. But he hopes to have more success than David, who never lived up to the billing of being the No. 1 overall pick in 2002. David Carr was sacked an NFL-record 76 times as a rookie on an overmatched expansion team and never really recovered.
The experience of watching his brother get battered and even booed at times didn’t dampen Derek’s love of Houston or the Texans.
“I loved Houston, I really did,” Carr said. “I still have some of my best friends from Houston that I talk to. Football-wise, with what happened with Dave, I mean they were an expansion team.”
Here are some things to watch when the Texans visit the Raiders:
Carr had one of the strongest arms of any quarterback in the draft, but wasn’t able to show it much in a season-opening loss to the New York Jets. Only three of his 20 completions went more than 10 yards downfield and his average throw traveled just 5.2 yards ahead of the line — second shortest in the league last week, according to Pro Football Focus. Carr said that was a reflection of the defense more than conservative play-calling.
“It doesn’t always work out the way you want to,” he said. “But they were called and they’ll continue to be called.”
Worried about Watt
The Raiders’ revamped offensive line looked overmatched in the opener against the New York Jets when the team averaged 1.7 yards per carry and Carr faced the third-most pressure of any quarterback in the league.
The task doesn’t figure to get easier this week when Oakland has to contend with Houston defensive end J.J. Watt.
Watt had two tackles for losses including a sack, blocked an extra point, recovered a fumble, swatted down a pass and had five quarterback hurries in last week’s win over Washington.
“You can’t block him with all 11 of your guys,” coach Dennis Allen said. “You’ve got to eventually single him up some.”
Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has some fond memories playing the Raiders having led game-winning drives in his only two meetings against Oakland. In 2011 in Buffalo, Fitzpatrick led the Bills to five TDs on five second-half drives, capped by a 6-yard TD pass to David Nelson with 14 seconds left in a 38-35 win. Then Fitzpatrick struck again last year for Tennessee, throwing a 10-yard TD pass to Kendall Wright with 10 seconds left in a 23-19 win.
After missing the final eight games last season because of back surgery and sitting out the preseason as a precaution, Houston running back Arian Foster looks to be back in form. Foster, who is third in the NFL in rushing since 2010, ran for 103 yards in the opener to give a potent running threat that takes pressure off Fitzpatrick.
Longtime Raiders punter Shane Lechler will return to the Coliseum for the first time since leaving for Houston as a free agent before last season. Lechler played his first 13 seasons in Oakland, winning three division titles and the 2002 AFC championship his first three years before going the final 10 without a winning record. Lechler was always a fan favorite and is looking forward to the return.
“They’re with you whether you’re down or not because the last 10 years I was there we were down pretty much every year,” Lechler said. “But the fan support was always there, strong.”