(Photo credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports)
The New Orleans Saints don't know if quarterback Derek Carr will be back this week, but they do know that running back Alvin Kamara will make his return when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday afternoon.
Kamara will be attempting to spark an offense that is ranked 20th in yards per game(314.7) and 25th in points per game (17.7) even though the team is 2-1.
Carr suffered a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder when he was sacked in an 18-17 loss at Green Bay last Sunday.
"I think we dodged a bullet there in terms of anything of real significance," Saints coach Dennis Allen said.
Carr did not participate at practice on Wednesday, and Allen said he wasn't "ruling anything out."
Kamara will make his season debut after serving a three-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.
"I'm fresh," Kamara said. "I'm real fresh."
Kamara is the Saints' top rushing threat and one of the primary receiving weapons for either Carr or Jameis Winston, who replaced Carr after the injury.
"He can help in a lot of ways," New Orleans wide receiver Chris Olave said about Kamara. "Just how we can use him in many ways. Perimeter runs, between the tackles, check-downs, option routes. All those little things out the backfield. He can help us in so many ways. I'm excited to have him back."
The Saints led the Packers 17-0 when Carr was hurt in the third quarter and the score was unchanged until the 11-minute mark of the fourth, when Green Bay kicked a field goal to start an 18-0 run. Winston moved New Orleans into field-goal range on its final drive, but rookie Blake Grupe was wide right from 46 yards with 1:05 left.
"Losing a 17-point lead like that is not something that should happen in our league," Allen said.
Tampa Bay (2-1) was one of the more surprising teams in the NFL during the first two weeks as it defeated Minnesota and Chicago to start the post-Tom Brady era.
But things were much different on Monday night, as the Philadelphia Eagles went into Tampa and beat the Bucs 25-11.
Tampa Bay entered the game ranked second in the NFL run defense, but the Eagles rushed for 201 yards and held the Bucs to 41.
Philadelphia's success dropped the Buccaneers to No. 12 in run defense, and Tampa Bay ranks 27th in rushing offense, averaging just 78 yards per game.
"You want to be better in the run game," Bucs coach Todd Bowles said. "(But) you win a game any way possible right now. If we can win the game throwing the football, I'll take it. If we can win the game running the football, I'll take it."
As bad as the run defense was, Bowles said it didn't look as bad during film review as he thought it was when the game ended.
"I just thought they killed us, then watching the film, we mis-fit some things and had some self-inflicted wounds," he said. "I thought they schemed up one of our defenses pretty good and got two runs out of it, which was good on their part."
Carr was joined on the sideline Wednesday by guard Cesar Ruiz (concussion protocol) and cornerback Paulson Adebo (hamstring).
The Bucs held a walkthrough on Wednesday and estimated that four defensive starters would have missed practice -- linebacker Devin White (foot), defensive tackles Vita Vea (pectoral) and Calijah Kancey (calf) and defensive back Jamel Dean (neck/shoulder).
--Field Level Media