In a somewhat surprising turn of events, the New Orleans Saints named Taysom Hill their interim starting quarterback, beginning this Sunday against Atlanta. The move was made despite Jameis Winston, a former No. 1 overall pick, playing the second half of the team’s Week 10 win over the 49ers after Drew Brees could not return to action with rib injuries.
Winston had also played in mop-up duty during New Orleans’ lopsided victory over the Buccaneers in Week 9, but Hill got all of the first-team reps in practice this week and will apparently assume the starter duties until Brees is healthy enough to return. Winston, on the other hand, is not expected to be involved in the offense at all, unless Hill is forced to come out due to injury or, presumably, poor play.
Brees suffered a vicious hit at the hands of 49ers defensive lineman Kentavius Street in the first half last Sunday in New Orleans, remaining on the turf for a few moments afterward and getting to his feet awkwardly. He would leave the game briefly but did return for the next series and to close out the first half.
However, after the halftime break, he told head coach Sean Payton that he was unable to continue and left Winston to play the final two quarters to preserve the victory.
It was initially reported that Brees had at least five fractured ribs, but later, it was revealed he may have suffered at least two cracked ribs the week prior against Tampa Bay. To make matters worse, he also had a collapsed lung that doctors cautioned him to be extra careful with.
There is no definitive time table for the 41-year-old’s return, but he will certainly be out a few weeks. Whether or not Hill is the full-time replacement during that absence remains to be seen, but if this week’s practice is any indication, that’s the way Payton and the Saints are leaning.
Tough Hill to Climb?
Hill was a dual-threat quarterback at BYU, finishing his Cougars career (2012-16) with 6,929 passing yards, 43 touchdown passes, 2,815 rushing yards and 32 rushing touchdowns. He went undrafted in 2017, but the Saints have turned him into a swiss army knife type of player. He has lined up at quarterback, wide receiver, running back and tight end, as well as playing on special teams.
In his NFL career, Hill has completed 11 of 20 passes, including the postseason, for a total of 255 yards with zero touchdowns and one interception. He’s rushed the ball 105 times for 596 yards with four touchdowns since entering the league, which is good for nearly six yards per carry.
What’s also unclear is whether this decision was financially-driven. While the Saints signed Winston to be the backup in the offseason to a one-year, $1.1M deal, they also inked Hill to a two-year extension for $21 million.
Winston is the more experienced professional under center, but the Saints may view Hill with the greater upside. New Orleans was in this situation last year, losing Brees to a thumb injury for five games, but opted to go with Teddy Bridgewater to keep the team afloat.
All he did was lead the team to a 5-0 record. This time, it’s Hill’s chance, starting with the Falcons on Sunday at home.