The Denver Broncos are a few days removed from a strong performance against a rookie quarterback who has started just four games this season. That's given Broncos fans a dose of optimism for what the team could do against another quarterback with little starting experience.
New Orleans Saints' QB Taysom Hill is coming off his first NFL start. With Drew Brees out several weeks because of broken ribs, Hill will start again vs. the Broncos at Mile High on Sunday.
Some fans may be eager at the prospect of facing another inexperienced quarterback, but those fans may want to pump the brakes. After all, the Saints dominated the Atlanta Falcons this past Sunday, so the fact Hill will start doesn't mean the Broncos face a pushover.
And based on the comments from Broncos coaches and players, they know that.
"He's a versatile guy," said safety Kareem Jackson during Wednesday's Zoom presser. "He does a lot for that team. With him having to play quarterback now, a lot of that stuff will be cut down as far as him being on special teams and doing all the other things. He’s still a dual-threat guy. He can run and has a strong arm."
According to Jackson, being a dual-threat on offense means the Broncos won't have it easy with game preparations.
"Preparing for a dual-threat quarterback is always the toughest because you can’t mimic that look in practice as far as their running ability," Jackson said.
Hill passed for 233 yards on 18-of-23 pass attempts against the Falcons. Although he didn't throw a touchdown pass, he scored twice on the ground. Hill lost a fumble, but didn't throw an interception.
It was a solid performance from Hill. Broncos' head coach Vic Fangio noted that the Saints didn't change much on offense, aside from a few designed run plays for him, and Hill handled things well.
"I was turning on the tape maybe to see something different, but it’s the Saints offense they’ve been running ever since [Saints Head Coach] Sean’s [Payton] been there and they’ve evolved to, with the addition of his ability to have the quarterback designed runs," Fangio said during Wednesday's presser. "But other than the quarterback designed runs which are unique to him, they ran their offense."
Along with Hill turning in a solid outing, the Saints' defense intercepted Matt Ryan twice and didn't give up a touchdown.
New Orleans always been known for its offense, but the defense may be its strongest unit this year. Their defense has held opposing running backs to 3.3 yards per carry, which indicates that Phillip Lindsay and Melvin Gordon could have their hands full on Sunday.
The Saints have also tallied 11 interceptions, with three going to free safety Marcus Williams. Defensive end Trey Hendrickson has made a significant impact with 9.5 sacks, accounting for nearly one-third of the Saints' total of 32 on the season.
And then there's a familiar face to Broncos fans who coordinates the defense. Dennis Allen got his first chance to run a defense with the Broncos in 2011.
Recall that the defense struggled the year before his arrival, but blossomed into a good unit in 2011, which was highlighted by Von Miller's rookie debut in which he tallied 11.5 sacks.
Allen was hired away by the Raiders after the season to be their head coach. Though his time there didn't last, he's found his mark running the Saints' defense.
Drew Lock noted in Wednesday's presser how hard the Saints' defense plays. He observed how talented the defense is, but that it's their effort that makes them that much better.
"It's different when you got guys that are extremely talented and can get away with talent, but when you have a team that has the guys that are extremely talented and bust their butt day in and day out and you can see how hard they're working on film and games," Lock said. "That’s what the Saints defense is. You go down the lineup you can name every single one of their players and they all play like it's their first year in the league, flying around, hitting, making the big plays and just looking pretty fresh out there when they're playing."
There was plenty to like about the Broncos' 20-13 win over the Miami Dolphins this past Sunday but that game is in the past. Now the Broncos get to see how they measure up to a team that may not be just a playoff contender, but a Super Bowl threat.
And Broncos fans would be wise not to look past the Saints, simply on account of their current quarterback.