One week after taking on a rookie quarterback making his fourth career start, the Denver Broncos find themselves in a similar — sort of — situation in Week 12 as the New Orleans Saints and new starter Taysom Hill make the trip to the Mile High City.
Hill will make just his second career start at quarterback. In his NFL debut as a QB in Week 11, Hill led the Saints to a 24-9 win over the rival Atlanta Falcons, finishing with two rushing touchdowns in the win.
In college, Hill was a sensation at BYU, passing for nearly 7,000 yards while adding another 3,000 rushing, scoring 75 touchdowns for the Cougars. Those numbers are pretty darn impressive on paper, but injury concerns caused Hill to go undrafted, leading to a long, winding road to New Orleans.
Hill landed in Green Bay as an undrafted free agent following the 2017 NFL draft, but was cut at the end of a strong preseason, leading to a waiver claim from the Saints.
Since then, Hill has dabbled as a receiver, tight end, special teams ace and quarterback for the Saints prior to Drew Brees’ fractured ribs injury suffered against the San Francisco 49ers.
After Jameis Winston finished the game for the Saints at quarterback — a game in which they won — all logic pointed to Winston being the guy moving forward under center with Brees on injured reserve. Sean Payton pulled a fast one, though, going with Hill, who bounced back from a rough first half in Week 11 to lead the Saints to victory.
With a game under his belt, I fully expect Hill to be much better in Week 12 on the road against the Broncos.
There’s this notion with Hill that he’s a bad passer and is really just a gadget player. Watching the film from the Week 11 game against the Saints, I saw an accurate passer who could throw off of multiple platforms and had decent ball placement.
He’s not much of a threat going deep because his arm just isn’t strong enough for deep shots, but the intermediate throws he really performed well on.
For a quarterback making his first career start under center, Hill showed some veteran savvy and nuance for the position that he hasn’t exclusively played since BYU.
Here, on the second drive of the game for the Saints, Hill does a great job looking off Falcons linebacker Foyesade Oluokun to his right, holding him in place long enough to allow rookie tight end Adam Trautman to win inside on the slant, creating an easy throwing window for Hill.
Using his Eyes
Speaking of easy throws, I really thought Payton did a great job with his play-calling against the Falcons, utilizing a lot of play-action for Hill, getting him in a rhythm early.
This is a pretty rep here from Hill, who looked very comfortable and confident on the play-action strike to Thomas. I’m telling you, on the intermediate routes Hill has a strong enough arm to fire strikes left and right.
That’s his sweet spot. Expect the Saints to attack there on Sunday against the Broncos.
Accuracy on the Move
This was my favorite play of the day by Hill.
For a guy many consider a run-first threat, Hill does a great job here feeling the pressure at his feet, stepping up while keeping his eyes downfield, and firing an off-platform dart to Michael Thomas on the run.
This is the one clip that really had me come out of my seat with Hill.
I think, in the right system, he can be solid. Not franchise-altering, but solid.
Dangerous Designed QB Runs
The Broncos are going to see a lot of Hill on the ground on Sunday, especially on designed runs like this QB power.
Payton loves dialing this up for Hill, especially in short-yardage situations. It’s been very successful this year overall for the Saints.
He does fumble the football at the end of the run, but look at the way the line blocks this up for him, and the speed and power with which he hits the hole. I expect to see QB power a handful of times on Sunday, especially on the road.
Athleticism & Speed You Have to Respect
The biggest thing I’m worried about with Hill on Sunday is his ability to extend plays with his legs and scramble on plays that don’t develop downfield, much like he does here.
He has the speed to turn the corner on defenders and has good vision as a runner. He won’t force many throws, which is a good trait to have as a young (experience-wise) quarterback, so in situations like this in the red zone, he’ll pull it down and make something happen with his legs.
Broncos' Best Hope
For Denver to slow down Hill, it'll have to play him the same way it played Tua Tagovailoa one week ago. Stay disciplined in your rush lanes, take away the run game, which in turn takes away the threat of play-action, and get physical with Hill.
Sunday’s game will be a big test not only for the Broncos, but for Hill and his immediate future at quarterback.