TE, QB, special teams ace? Whatever you call him, call Taysom Hill a playmaker

Tight end, quarterback, or special teams ace? Whatever you call him, call Taysom Hill a playmaker. The Saints are lining him up right where he needs to be:

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We honestly didn’t have a great feel for what the New Orleans Saints planned for Taysom Hill this year. After initially announcing his move from quarterback to tight end, that turned out to be more of a shift in focus than a full-time switch. Hill still lined up in the backfield during Week 1’s game with the Atlanta Falcons, though he didn’t throw a single pass, and ended up producing some of the team’s most explosive plays.

But as Dennis Allen had said over the summer, Hill was taking snaps at quarterback without spending the entire game there. Jameis Winston is the unquestioned starter, and Andy Dalton is his backup. That doesn’t mean Hill doesn’t provide some real value in his role as a do-it-all gadget player. He converted a first down twice as a runner, picking up an impressive 81 yards on the ground and scoring the game’s first touchdown on an 11-yard carry — which followed a huge 57-yard gain to set his new personal record.

He also played special teams with the punt return and punt coverage units, forcing a crucial holding penalty on Falcons long snapper Liam McCullough in the game’s final minute that moved the Saints offense into better field position on the ensuing possession. If McCullough hadn’t committed a hold Hill may have blocked the punt. Instead, Winston took over at his own 20-yard line (rather than the New Orleans 10) and lobbed a 40-yard pass to Jarvis Landry to flip the field. A couple of plays later, Wil Lutz booted a 51-yard field goal to retake the lead, and ultimately win the game. There’s a real possibility that things play out much differently had Hill not forced that penalty to start the sequence.

So he isn’t a quarterback, and he isn’t just a special teams asset. He also isn’t a conventional tight end. Hill played fewer snaps than tight ends Juwan Johnson (45) and Adam Trautman (25) against Atlanta, seeing 16 reps on offense. He carried the ball himself 4 times (gaining 57, 11, 9, and 4 yards) while running 4 routes (catching his lone target as a receiver to pick up 2 yards on 1st-and-10, which the Falcons admittedly defended well) and working as a blocker on 8 snaps.

That’s a unique distribution that sets him apart from the other tight ends on the roster, and taken with the greater context of his efforts on special teams and his dynamism as a runner, it explains why the Saints value him so highly. They have a package of plays in which he can help the team win games, and they’re going to continue giving him those opportunities until opposing defenses guard him better.

Hill gave it a good shot at trying out as a full-time NFL quarterback. That didn’t work out the way he wanted, but that’s okay. He’s being a team player and stepping back into the role that Pete Carmichael Jr. and the offensive coaching staff can work with. It’s earned him a contract extension with New Orleans that is paying him $10.1 million this year, per Over The Cap. If he can keep playing well when his number is called, that’ll end up looking like a bargain.

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WATCH: Taysom Hill burns the Falcons on 77-yard touchdown drive

Taysom Hill accounted for 68 of the Saints’ 77 yards on their first touchdown drive, with two big runs at quarterback, via @RossJacksonNOLA:

It was never a mystery, New Orleans Saints head coach Dennis Allen made it known early on that offensive weapon Taysom Hill would still take snaps at quarterback throughout the 2022 season, even if that isn’t his main focus. On Sunday, that was immediately proven to be true.

On a pair of plays during the team’s second drive, Hill ran for a total of 68 yards and scored an 11-yard touchdown run. Both runs were designed runs for the multi-faceted weapon. The first, great blocking on the right side by fullback Adam Prentice and tight ends Adam Trautman and Juwan Johnson sprang Hill loose down the sideline for a 57-yard run.

On the touchdown run, it was newly extended center Erik McCoy that got downfield in a hurry, clearing the way for Hill. A key block by running back Mark Ingram helped as well. Hill waltzed into the end zone untouched (until the goal line at least) to give the Saints an early lead over the rival Falcons 7-3.

Saints practice takeaways, Day 19: Jameis Winston makes impressive progress

Jameis Winston, former LSU Tigers impress during New Orleans Saints practice and more takeaways from Day 19, via @RossJacksonNOLA:

It was a high-energy practice on Tuesday for the New Orleans Saints who near their final preseason matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers as the week goes along. The Saints spent a portion time today running through team drills and finished again with a two-minute drill to close out practice. There were some back and forth moments as the offense bounced back and responded to a defense that was dominant on Monday. Here are our key takeaways from Day 19 of Saints practice.

Michael Thomas dominates again in Day 13 of Saints training camp

Michael Thomas produces more highlights in Day 13 of Saints training camp and more important takeaways, via @RossJacksonNOLA:

The goal for New Orleans Saints training camp Day 13 was to watch some of the guys that will get real opportunities in this weekend’s Houston Texans matchup. But it’s hard to do that when a superstar just keeps making big plays. In front of the fans and in full pads, Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas dazzled yet again. Here are some of his highlights and more key observations from today’s practice:

Saints camp takeaways: Jameis Winston and Chris Olave bring the fireworks

Jameis Winston and Chris Olave brought the fireworks in Day 4 of Saints camp. 5 takeaways from Saturday’s practice, via @RossJacksonNOLA:

Day 4 of New Orleans Saints training camp provided the biggest highlights of the week thus far. The team will now take the day off tomorrow before returning on Monday. They will be in pads as they kick off the next portion of the camp schedule. A welcome sight for offensive and defensive lineman in particular.

Today’s practice may not have had pads, but still provided a new element: the fans. In the team’s first open practice, the Saints brought some explosive moments for everyone to take in. Here are our observations from day 4 of Saints camp.

Adam Trautman on how Taysom Hill improves Saints tight ends room beyond the field

Saints tight end Adam Trautman explains how Taysom Hill’s value goes beyond his on-field production, via @RossJacksonNOLA:

There aren’t any players across the NFL more unique than New Orleans Saints tight end Taysom Hill. Hill, once in the running for starting quarterback, will still find himself taking some snaps from under center in 2022. But the focus of his work will be as a pass-catcher and offensive weapon. His production from the position should help to bolster it, but according to fellow tight end Adam Trautman, his impact is felt far before the team takes the field.

“Taysom in the room is awesome,” Trautman told media after Thursday’s practice session. “Like I said, physically he’s terrific. But mentally, that’s a whole ‘nother level that he brings to the room.”

While big catches, runs and collisions are usually the hallmark of Hill’s game, the impact he is having off the field is noticeable. As a player with quarterback experience, he knows what the passer is looking for from his tight end group. Hill now gets to share that insight on a consistent basis with Trautman, Nick Vannett, Juwan Johnson and other teammates.

Remember, this is new for Hill. While he’s played tight end before, he has mostly been in the quarterback room or splitting time in multiple meetings in previous seasons. Now, he get to study and game prep with the position group and that will likely lead to great production in 2022. Add to that Trautman’s health going into the season, and there is reason for some confidence in a step forward. “I feel much better.” the third-year tight end said. “I came in last camp, I was probably ten pounds less than I usually am.”

The Saints tight ends room did not produce a 300-yard receiver in 2021. Trautman led the way with just 263 receiving yards. Hill should have a positive impact not just with his own production, but by helping to make the other players around him better. Something of which Trautman looks to be on the verge.

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Taysom Hill hits the practice field with no limitations after injury-plagued 2021 season

Taysom Hill hit the practice field with no limitations after an injury-plagued 2021 season. He’s making plays just six months removed from a Lisfranc injury:

Taysom Hill went out for practice at New Orleans Saints training camp like he’s done so many times before, but with a big difference from what he’s experienced before — his usual red no-contact jersey was exchanged for the same white threads every other offensive player was wearing. It’s the final stamp on what we’ve been told all along: Hill’s run as a full-time quarterback is over. He may get a few snaps from out of the shotgun, but Hill’s days at the team facility will start in the tight ends room, not with the other passers.

Instead, he went through drills with the tight ends, and didn’t look out of place. Hill reeled in a pass from Jameis Winston for a big gain down the seam. On another play, our own Ross Jackson observed, Hill burnt the linebacker covering him and forced C.J. Gardner-Johnson to rotate over the top to compensate. The pass from Andy Dalton was underthrown and tipped by a defender, sure, but credit that to the opportunistic defense turning things around after Hill created a problem for them.

It’s a helpful illustration of the role the Saints envision for Hill now that his biggest supporter is out of the building. Sean Payton worked with Pete Carmichael (and once upon a time, Joe Brady) to design a creative set of plays maximizing Hill’s athleticism. Big-play opportunities down the seam. QB power runs through the heart of opposing defenses. Blocked punts on special teams. And, yeah, the occasional scattershot pass. It’s up to Carmichael to figure out the best usage for Hill moving forwards, and the very early returns suggest he’s got a good idea of where to put No. 7.

But the real story here is the quick recovery that Hill made from a long list of injuries he accumulated last season. He suffered a Lisfranc injury in the 2021 season finale while playing through a case of plantar fascia in the other foot. At the same time, he was managing a torn ligament in his throwing hand’s middle finger. And that’s all after he missed most of October reeling from the effects of a serious concussion. To bounce back from all of those ailments so soon — much less to do so and then make a couple of positive plays in the first day of training camp practices — is impressive.

Hopefully Hill didn’t rush himself back to action. Whether the Saints see him doing damage as a receiver, runner, blocker, or something else entirely (Dennis Allen has joked about moving him to linebacker), he brings value to the team that others don’t. They’ll be counting on him in some big spots in 2022.

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6 takeaways from the first day at Saints training camp

6 camp observations from the first day of Saints training camp: Michael Thomas is back, via @RossJacksonNOLA:

As NFL training camps kicked off around the league, the New Orleans Saints provided one of the biggest surprises with the return of All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas. Thomas was listed on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) less than a week ago, but found his way out to catching passes. While that story takes the cake for biggest surprise, here are several key observations from camp day one.

Saints expect Taysom Hill to take snaps all around the offense, including QB in 2022

Taysom Hill’s role may be changing, but the Saints still expect to deploy his talents at quarterback. – via @RossJacksonNOLA

What else should a team do with a talented player that can play just about any position aside from, well, let him play every position. New Orleans Saints head coach Dennis Allen explained during his media availability on Tuesday afternoon that Hill’s role will be an expansive one. And yes, that expanse is expected to include snaps at quarterback.

First, it is worth mentioning that Hill is expected to be healthy and ready to go for the first day of camp and thereon. The multi-faceted offensive weapon sustained several injuries in 2021. Not the least of which being a Lisfranc injury in the final game of the regular season. Despite a tight timeline, Allen says all systems are go for Hill heading into camp.

Earlier this offseason, soon after Jameis Winston returned on his new deal, Allen gave the indication that Hill’s role would be more akin to that of a tight end. That still holds true to an extent, but it looks like his talents will continue to be deployed all over the offense.

“I think it will be very similar to what we’ve seen in the past,” Allen told Saints media. “I think he’s going to provide multiple roles for us. There will be a lot of working with the tight end grouping. But yet, you know, he’ll still take some snaps from the quarterback position.”

Allen also mentioned that Hill will also find his way back to special teams contributions as well. Punt coverage is where the quarterback-turned-gunner burst on to the season toward the end of the 2017 season. But last year, with the quarterback competition and serving as the team’s primary backup signal caller, those responsibilities were removed. Now, with Andy Dalton as the primary backup option for Jameis Winston, Hill is free to be deployed anywhere and everywhere.

And “everywhere” is really where you want a talent like Hill anyway. Allen even joked that a few years back, they tried to recruit the former BYU Cougar to play strongside linebacker. Could that be a possibility in 2022? Unlikely considering the confidence in the current linebacking unit. But it is a good measuring stick for the confidence the organization still has in Hill, despite no longer having him compete at quarterback.

 

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Projecting the Saints’ starting offense before training camp

Some key additions for the New Orleans Saints bring up a new-look offense in 2022, with several new starters projected in the lineup, via @RossJacksonNOLA:

As organized team activities (OTAs) begin around the NFL, important roster battles get started, injured players show their progress, and rookies look to establish themselves. There’s no exception for the New Orleans Saints as the team reports to the facility on Airline Drive. Many of the new additions and standout rookies will be on the offensive side of the ball thanks to the offseason additions of rookie wideout Chris Olave, fellow first-round selection tackle Trevor Penning, and veteran wide receiver Jarvis Landry.

From now through OTAs and the upcoming mandatory minicamp events the Saints offensive roster will look to shake out. Training camp will bring not only a clearer look at the 2022 depth chart, but will certainly provide it’s own intrigue as starters get solidified. Here’s a look at the projected starting Saints offense ahead of training camp and the preseason: