A Lot Is On The Line For QB Jake Haener With New Orleans Saints This Preseason

While it won't be for the starting job, Jake Haener still has quite a bit at stake in his second training camp with the Saints.
Jun 13, 2023; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Jake Haener (14) passes the ball during minicamp at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 13, 2023; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Jake Haener (14) passes the ball during minicamp at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Let's get one thing out of the way immediately: there is no open competition for the starting quarterback job with the New Orleans Saints. Derek Carr is the starter. It is as simple as that, whether a portion of fans like it or not. However, there will still be quite a bit of intrigue at the position for the Saints this summer.

Questions About Haener

1. How well will Carr fit in the system installed by new offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak, and how quickly will he grasp it?
2. Who will win the backup job between Jake Haener, Spencer Rattler, and Nathan Peterman?
3. Will the Saints keep both of their recent draft picks (Haener and Rattler) on the active roster to back up Carr?

This might be a bitter pill for the Carr-hating Saints fans to swallow, but neither Haener, a fourth-round pick last season, or Rattler, a fifth-round choice this year, were selected to push Carr for the starting role. Rather, each were picked because of their potential fit for the system and to perhaps be a draft steal at the position.

For Haener, there might be more at stake than for Rattler. After all, the offensive coordinator at the time he was selected was Pete Carmichael. Different system, different year, and a new draft choice in which to compete for the position.

About Jake Haener

Nov 25, 2022; Fresno State Bulldogs quarterback Jake Haener (9) throws a pass against the Wyoming Cowboys
Nov 25, 2022; Fresno State Bulldogs quarterback Jake Haener (9) throws a pass against the Wyoming Cowboys / Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Three quarterbacks were selected in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. There was one drafted in the second (Will Levis) and one in the third (Hendon Hooker) before the Saints grabbed Haener with the 25th choice of the fourth round.

New Orleans thought highly enough of Haener that they traded a 2023 seventh-round pick and a 2024 fourth-rounder to move into position to get him. After Haener was picked, four quarterbacks came off the board in the next 13 selections.

Haener, 25, started his collegiate career at Washington in 2018 before transferring to Fresno State after just one season. His record as a starter in three seasons for the Bulldogs was 21-8.

In those three years at Fresno State, Haener completed 68.2% of his passes for 9,013 yards with 67 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He threw for over 300 yards 17 times in 28 outings. His best season statistically was in 2021, when he threw for 4,096 yards with 33 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He was on pace for a similar output in 2022, but missed four contests because of injuries.

Aug 27, 2023; New Orleans Saints quarterback Jake Haener (14) passes against the Houston Texans
Aug 27, 2023; New Orleans Saints quarterback Jake Haener (14) passes against the Houston Texans / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

As is often the case with rookies, Haener was up and down during training camp and preseason as a rookie. Still, he had no problems making the roster, where he was expected to be the third quarterback behind Carr and veteran Jameis Winston. However, a violation of the NFL substance policy would cause Haener to be suspended for the first six weeks of the season.

Haener's suspension cost him valuable practice and meeting time. Upon his return, he was inactive for most of the remaining games and, not surprisingly, did not see the field for a single snap. Carr started every game last season, but was replaced by Winston in three separate contests because of injuries.

Haener In Kubiak's Offense

Perhaps fortunately for Haener, the offseason change at offensive coordinator will essentially put him on even learning ground as Rattler and even Carr in regards to system familiarity. However, another thing to consider is that it was a new offensive coordinator this offseason that identified Rattler as a potential fit for the system in the draft.

This is not to say that Haener won't be a fit for Kubiak's system. Quite the contrary. Listed at slightly under six-feet tall, Haener has a strong build that should stand up to NFL rushers. He was an extremely accurate passer in college, with exceptional route anticipation and ability to get the ball to his receivers in stride.

Aug 20, 2023; New Orleans Saints quarterback Jake Haener (14) throws a pass against the Los Angeles Chargers
Aug 20, 2023; New Orleans Saints quarterback Jake Haener (14) throws a pass against the Los Angeles Chargers / Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

At Fresno State, Haener showed the patience to go through his progressions and the vision to dissect defenses. While willing to stand in the pocket for routes to develop, he is also a good enough athlete to escape pressure and throw on the move with accuracy.

Saints' Backup Battle

What is perhaps most interesting about the Saints quarterback situation is the lack of a backup with successful starting experience. Since Sean Payton became head coach in 2006, experienced backups such as Jamie Martin, Chase Daniel, Mark Brunell, Luke McCown, Teddy Bridgewater, Trevor Siemian, Andy Dalton, and Winston have provided at least some security as backups.

Yes, Nathan Peterman has experience, but there is not a soul on earth that would call his NFL tenure anything close to successful. This leaves young and inexperienced passers such as Haener and Rattler to compete for the number two role.

Jake Haener will be challenged to show some of the collegiate traits that attracted the Saints to him in the draft. Moreover, he'll also need to act as an extra pair of eyes on the sideline for Carr and Kubiak. This is an often overlooked but crucial aspect of a backup quarterback.

If Haener can hold off Rattler and earn the confidence of the coaches to secure the number two spot, he could even position himself for a starting job with the Saints or elsewhere in a year or two. If Haener cannot even outplay Peterman during preseason, then he'll likely be no more than a practice squad player who bounces from roster to roster in anonymity.


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Bob Rose

BOB ROSE

Covers the New Orleans Saints as a senior writer for the Saints News Network.  Co-Host of the Bayou Blitz Podcast.