The Saints have many questions entering the new season. In fact, we asked 25 of them at the beginning of June that we wanted to see answers to over the next few months leading up to the start of the regular season. Today's topic focuses on who the starting quarterback will be in 2021 for New Orleans: Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill.
If you've been following along with Saints minicamp, then you've seen some very common themes so far. For starters, the praise has been there for both Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill in regards to their leadership. Sean Payton has been very diplomatic and being sure to include both quarterbacks when he was asked about specifics involving both.
When it comes to Taysom Hill, we're judging him based on his four-game stint of starts from last season. What we have to remember about that is that the Broncos game didn't count, because after all, what happened was completely unprecedented. This forced New Orleans to change up their game plan at the last minute.
However, Hill's sample size from the two games against the Falcons and one against the Eagles looked like this.
- Week 11 (vs. Falcons)
18/23 (78%), 233 Yards (10.1 YPA), 0 Passing TDs, 0 INTs, 3 Sacks, Fumble, Fumble Lost, 10 Rushes for 49 Yards, 2 Rushing TDs
- Week 13 (at Falcons)
27/37 (73%), 232 Yards (6.3 YPA), 2 Passing TDs, 0 INTs, 2 Sacks, 3 Fumbles, Fumble Lost, 14 Rushes for 83 Yards
- Week 14 (at Eagles)
28/38 (74%), 291 Yards (7.7 YPA), 2 Passing TDs, 1 INT, 5 Sacks, Fumble, Fumble Lost, 5 Rushes for 33 Yards
One concerning thing in that four-game stretch was the lack of Alvin Kamara's utilization in the receiving game. In the first three games with Hill at the helm, Kamara had just six targets that resulted in 3 catches for 7 yards. The Eagles game yielded better results (10 targets, 7 catches for 44 yards).
In the first half of that contest, Kamara had five targets (3 catches for 21 yards). All of those receptions also came from the shotgun formation. Not utilizing one of your best weapons leaves a lot to the imagination.
There's a lot of things in Winston's resume that makes him the clear favorite, and it's hard not to give him the best odds of winning the starting job. In late March, he said that he's focusing on being the best version of himself that he can be.
There are some lazy narratives that exist with Winston, mainly because of his 2019 season being the last taste in everyone's mouth.
NewOrleans.Football's Nick Underhill did a great job breaking down Winston's fumbles since 2017. I had previously talked about the overblown interceptions from 2019, which were bad, but also saw 19 of the 30 picks come in just five games. Coincidentally, those were all home games too.
Winston's attempts from that season (626) also make it more desirable in a Payton-led offense, as Drew Brees amassed over 600 nine separate times with New Orleans.
The bottom line is this. Hill needs to develop really quickly to have a legitimate shot at the starting role. It's hard not to expect him to give it a good run, and every decision he makes from training camp to preseason action will go under the microscope.
Speaking of, Sean Payton has already stated that the third preseason game won't be treated any differently by the team, so we may really get a feel for how the mechanics, pocket presence, and decision-making has improved.
It was a good sign seeing Winston taking charge in areas to build chemistry and work out with players off the field. That could absolutely benefit and give him the edge in the long run. The NFL is anticipating league-wide practices and fan events starting on July 31, and the quarterback battle will end up being must-see TV when it comes to training camp.
New Orleans will be a wild card of sorts when it comes to how they'll do in 2021, and at this point, the projected success they'd have with Winston over Hill ends up being a huge difference. However, don't make the mistake of counting out Hill before it starts.