While most of the focus in New Orleans has been on the Saints' quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill, backups Ian Book and Trevor Siemian have a good competition brewing — with possible future implications.
Book and Siemian are fighting for the third and final quarterback spot on the 2021 New Orleans Saints' 53-man roster.
In some ways, the #3 backup role could become the primary backup spot if Jameis Winston wins the starter's position. If so, Taysom Hill's "Swiss-Army Knife" usage could return to the team's offensive strategy in a limited capacity. But finding a capable backup would allow Payton the freedom to use both Winston and Hill, similar to his approach with Brees and Hill.
Taysom Hill's injury in last season's NFC Wildcard playoff game versus Chicago handicapped the Saints' offense in the NFC Division Playoff contest against Tampa Bay. The Saints were without some of their potency with Hill sidelined. Payton couldn't successfully run Hill's off-schedule plays to counter a fast defensive unit, and New Orleans eventually fell 30-20 to the Buccaneers.
Book provides a different element for the Saints to consider. A few former NFL executives and coaches have gone of record in support of rookie quarterback Ian Book. Hall of Famer Bill Polian and coach Charlie Weis said on SiriusXM NFL Radio, and coach Jim Mora, Jr. believe that Book could be "future quarterback" in New Orleans.
Last weekend, he mainly auditioned in the second half of preseason action against the Ravens. Book finished with 9/16 completions, 126 yards, and one interception for a 55.7 rating. To be fair, he was under duress with the third-string offensive line protecting him from a lively Ravens front seven. His lone interception came as a result of pressure and sealed the game for Baltimore.
In Monday's home preseason game against Jacksonville, Saints head coach Sean Payton confirmed that Trevor Siemian would compete as the third-string quarterback. Siemian is a former NFL starter for the Denver Broncos. He was on the Saints' practice roster towards the end of 2020 and returned in January 2021 after New Orleans offered him a Reserve/Future contract.
Nicknamed T-Money Sizzle, Siemian has passed for 5,686 yards, 30 touchdowns, 24 interceptions, and nine fumbles in his four-year career in Denver and New York. Although he has led three comebacks and two game-winning drives and started in the league, he still faces stiff competition from the confident rookie Book.
Siemian's evaluation will be on how the Saints' offense responds to his leadership, decision-making, and ball security. The two knocks on the signal-caller have been his failure of protecting the football and taking unnecessary sacks — 59 in the final two seasons with the Broncos.
The veteran has a strong arm and could provide a measure of assurance for the Saints. However, the training camp advantage seems to be tilting in Book's favor.
New Orleans could decide to release or sign Book to their practice squad, but it seems highly unlikely the Saints would be willing to expose Book and his talent to the rest of the league.
The best bet for Siemian would be to return to the Saints' practice squad. If you know Sean Payton, he could be helping Siemian. Essentially, Monday night's primetime tilt could give an NFL team view of Siemian's potential as a backup quarterback.
Then again, primetime may be another reason for Payton to highlight Siemian and quietly shelve Book for the game.
Prediction: Ian Book stays, and Trevor Siemian returns as an emergency quarterback on the Saints' practice squad in 2021.
We shall see.
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