Derek Carr was impressed with New Orleans Saints center Erik McCoy before he ever took a snap from him.
Carr had just signed with the Saints in March and was starting to do his research on his new teammates. One of the first clips he saw was a play from a game between the Saints and Green Bay Packers in the Superdome.
McCoy, blocking some 40 yards down the field, was running 16.22 mph on this particular play, according to Next Gen Stats.
That was a tad faster than the 15.28 mph teammate Alvin Kamara was clocked at on that same play that resulted in one of the more spectacular touchdowns of Kamara’s career.
Carr immediately texted the video to McCoy with a message.
“This is so beyond impressive,” Carr told McCoy. “If we get everybody to play like this, if we can lead everybody and teach everybody to play with that kind of effort, it will be a special time.”
That game was from three years ago, which tells you all you need to know about how thorough Carr was in learning everything he needed to know about his new teammates. He didn't just study the skill position guys. He also noticed the details of the often underappreciated guys up front who have the task of protecting him.
He noticed McCoy right away.
“That’s just something that stuck out to me,” Carr said. “It wasn’t just one time. I watched another play and it happened and I was like, 'OK, I’m not texting him 18 times.' But every time, this guy plays so hard.”
A bond was formed as soon as McCoy got the text. Carr was impressed with McCoy, and McCoy was just as impressed with Carr.
“I knew then that this guy is ready to work,” McCoy said. “He’s watching film from 2020 and this is right after he signed so I’m thinking, ‘Dang, I hadn’t opened my iPad in a month and he’s already ready to work.’ ”
Fast-forward to the past three weeks of practice at the Saints’ organized team activities, and the chemistry between quarterback and center continues to grow.
And so does the respect between the two.
“It’s just his football smarts,” McCoy said of Carr. “He’s super intelligent. He sees things all over the field and calls them out with ease.”
Carr has made playing center easier for McCoy. Carr handles calling the pass protection now.
“It takes some pressure off,” McCoy said. “It makes it a little bit more of where I can just go play football, which is invaluable.”
Although OTAs were voluntary, McCoy didn’t really see it that way. For him, they were mandatory. He knew it was important for him to get all the time he could with Carr.
“I needed to get familiar with this guy and how he plays and how he communicates,” McCoy said. “… I look at this as a time to get better than last year in all aspects, mentally and physically.”
While McCoy has had to get familiar with a new quarterback, he’s also had to get familiar with a whole new set of offensive linemen during OTAs. He’s the only starter who practiced in OTAs.
Right tackle Ryan Ramczyk, left guard Andrus Peat and left tackle Calvin Throckmorton chose not to attend the voluntary sessions. All three of those players are expected to be back at practice next week for the three-day mandatory minicamp. Right guard Cesar Ruiz and left tackle Trevor Penning, who was Throckmorton’s backup last season, are rehabbing injuries.
It left McCoy up front with a group of players with a little less experience. He expects that to pay off in the long run.
“It gives me a chance to learn everybody better, not just as a player, but as a person,” McCoy said. “I get to learn their tendencies and how they communicate and all those things. When the inevitable happens during the season, I’ll have familiarity with those guys.”
And he’ll also have familiarity with Carr, the latest Saints quarterback in what has been a carousel at the position over the past few seasons with all of the injuries. The two of them will spend minicamp and then training camp continuing to build chemistry as their appreciation for each other grows.
“He’s a Pro Bowl-caliber player,” Carr said of McCoy. “You see the talent. You see the smarts. And now hopefully we can get some wins so those guys up front can get recognized like they should.”