Standing in the way of the Broncos taking another step towards .500 sustained four season-related injuries at BYU, was not drafted three years ago, was cut after his first training camp and made his first NFL impact in a Swiss Army Knife role for the New Orleans Saints.
What Taysom Hill lacks in starting quarterback experience, he makes up for with athleticism, arm strength and playing prowess, and he has the Broncos’ attention.
In his 47th career game, Hill made his first start as a quarterback in Sunday’s 24-9 win over Atlanta, replacing Drew Brees, who is on an injured reserve with multiple broken ribs. Hill completed 18 of 23 passes for 233 yards and rushed 10 times for 49 yards and two touchdowns.
“He fulfilled his duties as a quarterback,” said Broncos coach Vic Fangio. “I don’t think the Saints completely changed their insult because he was the quarterback.”
And that was surprising to Fangio and just about anyone who half expected Saints coach Sean Payton to draft a run-the-quarterback plan that is the opposite of what Brees operated on.
But no. A wise move by Payton did not expose Hill to first-half hits on assigned run plays. Eight of his 10 carries were in the second half when he used his 6-foot-2,221-pound frame to smash the Atlanta’s defense.
“I turned on the tape to maybe see something else, but it was the Saints’ offense they’ve been carrying out since Sean has been there and they’ve evolved with the addition of his ability to (call) quarterback-designed runs, ” Fangio said.
Payton called a consolation game to start the game – roll to the right and an eight meter pass to receiver Michael Thomas. But the Saints’ attack started point, field goal, missed field goal, and point to follow 9-3.
Late in the second quarter, Hill led a touchdown drive with completions of 16 yards for Thomas and 150 yards for Emmanuel Sanders.
“Like any quarterback at his first start, there were some jitters in the beginning of the game, but I had a feeling that when the second quarter and second half took place, he was doing really well,” Payton said in a conference call. with the Denver media.
The Saints still presented a wide variety of personnel groupings (six) and wrinkles (jet moves, feral cat, sixth offensive lineman on the field, etc.). New Orleans used “11” staff (three recipients) on 30 snaps and “12” (two recipients / two tight ends) on 21 snaps.
The Falcons defense rushed with five or more players on just 10 of Hill’s drop-backs, opting to use a three-man hit on seven drop-backs. Hill was fired twice and had to scramble once against the pressure of three men.
Hill’s running race was picked up in the second half with a quarterback powerplay. He won 38 yards on six fourth quarter carries.
“He can run and has a strong arm,” said Broncos security Kareem Jackson. “Preparing for a double threat quarterback is always the hardest, because you can’t really replicate that look in practice.”
Getting Hill to start and perhaps become the Saints’ future quarterback is already a great story. For more than five years at BYU, he sustained knee, leg, foot and elbow injuries, each of which ended a season.
Hill, who had not yet been drafted, spent the 2017 training camp with Green Bay and was claimed by the Saints with waivers. He was called up from the exhibition squad for the last month of the season and then Payton spent the 2018 off-season in a figurative lab creating ways to involve Hill.
In ’18, Hill had 37 rushes, 14 kick returns, seven passes and three catches.
In ’19, Hill had 27 rushes, 19 catches and six passes. He signed a two-year $ 21 million contract as a limited free agent.
Before taking over from Brees this year, Hill had 34 rushes, six catches and five passes and also played 68 special team snaps.
“A versatile man,” said Jackson. “We have to be ready.”